Ten years ago this May, three days before my husband left home for a week-long business trip to Hungary, I did something incredibly stupid.
I drank after a toddler.
I know, I know. How could I be that dumb? I KNOW little kids are gross. I KNOW they’re little bags of boogers and cooties. But when our friend stopped by with his daughter and she asked for a glass of juice and only took two sips of it before abandoning the rest, I let my “Don’t be wasteful” mindset overcome my “Do not poison thyself with the vile germs of a child” mindset and drank the rest of it.
Two days later, I learned that the child in question had hand-foot-and-mouth disease*. The next day, just as the hubby was leaving for the airport, I woke up with a fever.
I don’t get sick a lot. A cold here, a little food poisoning there, but for the most part, I tend to stay away from illnesses because they’re gross. So this was the first fever I’d had since… I’d become an adult. At least as far as I could remember. And it was NOT FUN. I stayed in bed with a 102° temperature for twenty-four hours. I must have fed my cats at some point, or they probably would have eaten me, and I vaguely remember letting my leashed puppy out the door to run into the waiting arms of my sweet neighbor so she could walk him for me (without actually entering the house of the sick) but that’s it. Otherwise, I slept, moaned, and eventually sweated myself awake, confused, hungry, and REALLY regretting drinking that juice.
When I’d showered and eaten a piece of toast, I Googled hand-foot-and-mouth disease to see what I was in for. The internet told me I would begin seeing symptoms three to five days after exposure (check), have fever for twenty-four hours (check), then a sore throat for one to two days, followed by red sores on my (you guessed it) hands, feet, and/or mouth. As I finished reading the article and swallowed my last bite of toast, I felt the bread crust scrape down the sides of my already tender throat. This is going to be fun, I thought. And it was. (Just kidding. It was not fun.)
A week later, the spots on my hands had almost completely cleared up—thankfully, I didn’t get any on my feet or mouth—and by the time my husband returned to the country, I was pretty much back to normal.
And I never drank after a toddler again.
But it’s not really the end because today, I found myself looking back on this experience with a touch of nostalgia.
It’s not that I want to shiver, sweat, cringe, and itch my way through a week of hand-foot-and-mouth disease again because I don’t. I really, really don’t. But there was something so satisfying about being told exactly how the virus would run its course and then having the virus do exactly that. Y’all, I’m a teacher. I LOVE it when things follow directions. Lately, that’s the most frustrating thing about covid. It’s not following directions.
Omicron is sweeping through our schools like cedar pollen on a windy day***. So far this week, I’ve had eighteen students absent, and our admin team is spending all their time calling families to let them know their child was exposed to someone who tested positive for covid. We’re supposed to stay home if we’re sick and get tested if we think we might be infected, but Googling omicron symptoms brings up a dozen different articles saying a dozen different things. It feels like allergies, it feels like the flu, it comes with a fever, it doesn’t come with a fever, it starts with a sore throat, it includes an upset stomach, it feels like a cold, it doesn’t feel like anything at all because some people are completely asymptomatic…
This vague advice makes me question every sneeze, sniffle, cough, and eye twitch, but ultimately, I keep going to work and teaching whoever is there and waiting for the email to let us know how many new cases our school has that day.
We are ALL tired of covid. I know that. I feel it. I wish I could snap my fingers and make it all go away. Since I can’t, I have a new wish. I just want it to start following directions. Tell me exactly when I’ll get sick and how and for how long. No more rogue viruses. Make covid follow the rules like everybody else.
That’s all I ask.
Here’s hoping that all of my readers are safe and healthy. I hope none of you have covid (or hand-foot-and-mouth disease either) or that if you do, you have a light case. Get vaccinated, and encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated too, and hang in there with me as we make our way through this mess. We can do it!
*sanitizes hands for fiftieth time today*
* No, hand-foot-and-mouth disease is not something farm animals get**. It’s a virus that is common in human children and less common (but really, really not fun) in human adults.
** Ok, I was wrong. I just looked it up, and foot-and-mouth disease IS, in fact, something that farm animals get. So the people who said to me, “Isn’t that a farm animal disease?” probably didn’t totally deserve the mean looks I gave them. But HAND-foot-and-mouth disease is a human virus. Because humans have hands. #science
*** Coincidentally, cedar fever is also sweeping through our schools like cedar pollen on a windy day, and the fact that its symptoms are so similar to omicron’s nebulous, varied symptoms is not helping anything.