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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stay Home – Influenza, Ebola and the Common Cold


If I look sick in this picture it’s because I was.  This was taken a day or two before our wedding and I’d had a bad cold with a horrible cough that was keeping me awake at night.  And, I got that cold at church.

Yes, a short time before our wedding my fiancé and I had been at a church meeting and there was a little girl sitting directly behind me during the service.  She was being really good and was quiet throughout the service – except that she had a nasty sounding, “juicy” cough.  At least part of the time she was doubtless coughing in my immediate direction.

I don’t hold it against her.  Her parents should have kept her at home that day, no doubt about it.  I don’t hold a grudge against them about it either, but this story is a prime example of why I believe in people staying home when they are sick and keeping kids home when they are sick.  You have no idea the trouble you may cause someone else, and they are not likely to come tell you about it even if they know you cause it.

Later, I could see that the Lord allowed me to catch that cold because I worried more about whether I’d be well enough to make it to our wedding than about the myriad other things brides usually worry about.  The day before the wedding my husband-to-be took me to an urgent care clinic and we got some prescriptions for cough suppressants that helped me sleep and feel wonderfully better for our wedding day!  (He didn’t tell me on the day of our wedding that he was coming down with the cold too or I might have been quite worried about that.  Thankfully, he didn’t take it as badly as I did, but Emergence-C vitamin drink still reminds him of our honeymoon.  :-)  hahaha)

I’ve seen sick kids in church meetings before and I couldn’t understand why the parents would drag the poor kids to church and also expose other families there, particularly the elderly folks.  It is not so uncommon for an older person in weaker health to develop pneumonia from a cold of the flu and have a horrible battle or even die.  I don’t understand why people are willing to take that risk, even if it seems small to them.

I’ve also heard a horror story about a mother who couldn’t stand to stay away from her weekly social club (meaning church), and actually brought her baby who had hand, foot and mouth disease and put her in the nursery, where she gave it to other kids.  Yes, there are Christians who are that selfish.  They’re more concerned about “getting a blessing”, showing off their new clothes, and seeing their friends than they are about caring for the needs of the saints in the choices they make.

My husband and I have actually stayed home from church meeting sometimes because we had a situation approaching where we couldn’t afford to be sick and we couldn’t trust our fellow-believers to stay home if they were sick.  Yeah, I know.  We should have more faith and “trust the Lord”.  But, the Lord also gives us a head for something besides a hat rack. He intends us to think with it.  Foreseeing situations that have proven to be a problem in the past should be an easy call.  We were sick at our wedding and on our honeymoon.  We’re not likely to forget it.  Proverbs 22:3  A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.  We know we can’t trust people to stay home from church meeting, especially during the “sick season”, so we stay home.  But, frankly, that ought not to be.  The well folks ought not to have to stay home from church because sick people will insist on being there.  Christians should show more care one for another.

When my family lived in Arizona some old family friends once visited us on the way home from a retreat in Mexico.  There had been a terrible stomach bug among the attendees there and they had used their R.V. (caravan) to house sick kids.  The wife came down with the bug on the way to our house, but they came on anyway.  She stayed in the R.V. but the husband visited in my grandparents’ house, where we all were eating.  He came down with the bug while he was in the house and vomited on my grandparents’ porch.  Some of the men in our family cleaned it up.  Long story short, we all got it, though thankfully not all at once.  Some of us were horribly sick.  My dad nearly called an ambulance for two of us.  My parents grew up in East Africa and had experienced some pretty bad diseases.  They said they’d never had anything that bad before.  First you were afraid you would die.  Then you were afraid you wouldn’t.  Thankfully, my grandparents were not nearly as sick as some of us were or they might not have lived.

There is also the problem of sick people in the workplace.  My mom and I both remember a lady who was running a register at our local grocery store years ago.  She had a horrible cold.  She should have been at home in bed, but there she was handling all our food stuffs at the checkout, as well as exposing her co-workers and the customers in general.  My mom was really provoked.  I don’t remember if she questioned the lady about it, but it seemed like it came out that she didn’t have any more sick time or something to that effect.  Her employer was to blame in any case because he shouldn’t have allowed her to work in that condition – out of courtesy to his customers and other employees.

In one place my family lived there was quite a lot of sickness and one of my brothers was constantly bringing home “bugs” to us.  His co-workers coming in sick and the work requirements - they were required to shake hands with customers - all tended toward a lot of “sharing” of sickness.  When the norovirus went through the area he refused to shake hands till it was over.  He basically said his family’s health was more important to him than the “rules” and if they fired him, so be it (we were not dependent on his income).

I also remember when I was in my teens some of the young people in our youth group talking about going to school sick.  The local school had a reward system which allowed the kids in the high school to skip final exams at the end of the year if they didn’t miss a day of school all year.  Obviously this had a bad built-in penalty – namely, kids coming to school sick.  :-/  Kids should be sent home from school when they come sick.

It seems like people should figure these things out without being told, but for various reasons they don’t.  I’ve even been in a church where the pastor begged the people from the pulpit not to come sick, yet they went right ahead and did it without regard for him or the congregation.  People go to work sick without regard for their co-workers or the public – even in food service situations.  The managers, bosses, and owners of the businesses allow them to work sick, or even demand it. 

In Western cultures I think we’ve gotten so used to the doctors and medicines being able to cure or relieve almost everything that, as a whole, we’ve developed a careless attitude toward sickness.  Colds are not as terrifying today as they were in the past because there is penicillin, sulfa drugs and other things.  My great-grandmother and her oldest son might have lived if they’d had those things in their day.  But, they didn’t have those things and colds, the flu and pneumonia were very serious, scary things.  People were warned not to run risks and take chances.  People could die for ignoring those warnings.

With the common cold and the flu, milder stomach bugs and some other minor ailments, it is not usually a matter of life or death any more – though, of course, it can be for those with weak immune systems, the elderly, and small children.  Over-the-counter and prescription medicines take the bite out of a lot of sicknesses these days.  Even many serious illnesses can be cured with antibiotics, or alleviated with anti-virals, natural remedies and other medical procedures.  Doctors and health practitioners – both traditional and otherwise – do amazing things these days, no doubt about it.  I am sure this plays a big part in the carelessness that people have toward various kinds of sickness.

Furthermore, people are selfish.  Their own wishes, “needs”, enjoyment, entertainment, etc. are much more important than other people’s health.  They don’t give a thought or care if they might make someone else sick at a very awkward time (such as just before a move, long trip, surgery, wedding, etc.).  They don’t think about the people who have weakened immune systems who could actually end up in the hospital from a minor cold (when my sister was a baby everything she got went straight to her lungs and made her terribly ill).  They also don’t think about the families and all the work and sorrow it is to take care of a houseful of sick kids.  So much damage and trouble can be caused by thinking only of ourselves and what we want!

The problem that we face in recent times is that there have been terrible strains of influenza that have cropped up again and there are some really dangerous “super bugs” that are resistant to antibiotics.  There are viruses like Ebola that don’t stay in “poor sanitation countries” (like cholera generally does) but could potentially spread all over the world, just as the Black Plague did in times past.  Some of these, like Ebola, have the reputation of being not only very contagious, but also very, very deadly!

It is time to wake up and start acting responsibly about sickness again as some of our ancestors had to do in order to stay alive.

People, please. IF YOU ARE SICK – STAY HOME! 


I know.  You have to work.  The Sunday School needs you.  There won’t be anyone to make sure the lights are turned out at the end of the day.  The toilets won’t get cleaned.  No one will be available to work in the nursery.  You’re the only one who knows how to run the dishwasher.  You’ll “miss out on something important”.  You’ll miss “all the fun.”  Whatever your pet reason is for thinking that you are indispensible at your work place, church, school, etc., just add it here.  And, don’t go visiting people, or to Bible studies or parties.  Don’t travel on planes, buses, etc.  Really and truly, you need to stay home.

I know that it is hard in the work situation sometimes, but please talk to your manager/boss about it.  With something like Ebola possibly breaking out in earnest, every workplace should have a plan and should be telling their employees to stay home if they are sick, especially with any symptoms common to this disease.

Even if Ebola doesn’t become an epidemic where you live, there is way more spreading of sickness than there needs to be in some “Western” places.  At least there is in the U.S. and Australia.  I’m sure this is true elsewhere also.  We need to be more careful of others.  If you absolutely have to go somewhere, take precautions.  Wear a mask.  Wear long sleeves and sneeze or cough into your sleeve.  Keep your distance.  But DON’T GO if you can at all avoid it.

Stay home.  Stay home.  Stay home.



  1. I cannot tell you how many times I have thought the same thing. I was made very ill once because a co worker needed to save her sick days for when her children were ill. I felt bad for her and myself since we both were very unhappy!

    1. It's really hard for people to avoid going to work sick sometimes. I can sympathize with that lady's worry about needing time off to care for sick children, but on the other hand, it is worse for everyone, including her and her kids, for her to work when sick. It's a sort of sorry thing that employers don't "get" that allowing more sick time actually benefits everyone in the long run. They can ask for doctor's notes if necessary, but still give more.