My son’s friends came home with him after school today to hang out for a while. As the boys tumbled through the door, divesting themselves of their jackets, backpacks and sneakers (no shoes in the house!!) I noticed that one of them was sporting a pretty nasty cough.
Normally I’m not paranoid about other kids’ coughs, sneezes, or runny noses – kids get sick, including my own – I offer tissues and insist on hand washing to keep the germs at bay, and that’s usually enough to keep things under control. But last week we got a notice from the school nurse that a case of whooping cough had been identified in the school, and in my son’s grade to boot. I knew for sure that my son’s friend wasn’t the affected individual, but as soon as the boys were settled in I grabbed the notice and gave it another read.
I learned that whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes an uncontrollable, violent cough lasting several weeks or even months. It can begin with cold-like symptoms or a dry cough that can progress to episodes of severe coughing. It is spread from person to person by direct contact with mucus or droplets from the nose and throat of infected individuals. At that point a visual of microscopic droplets, pregnant with pertussis, being hacked into the air popped in to my head. In my vivid imaginings I pictured those droplets landing on the Legos and Nerf guns the kids were playing with, and then making their way into their noses and throats. . .
That’s when I went to the laundry room and grabbed my can of Lysol disinfectant and started spraying. Everything. Even those stinky sneakers by the door. The kids didn’t seem to notice.
I asked my son’s friend how long he’d been coughing and he replied that it’s been a few days now, “but it’s not that whooping cough”, he insisted “I just have a cold.” I simply smiled and kept on spraying.
After the kids left, my son remarked that his coughing friend had been uncharacteristically cranky today. I explained to him that he probably wasn’t feeling well, and then I called his mom to let her know that he’d been out of sorts and coughing quite a bit this afternoon. She thanked me and assured me that it was nothing to worry about. Was I being a little paranoid? Perhaps, but I told my son to wash his hands and face thoroughly and continued to Lysol all the Legos and Nerf guns. . .