Everyone knows that having a cold is nothing at all, and you should just grin and bear it.
I know that, because that was how I was brought up. While I was despatched off to school, snuffling, coughing, spewing phlegm and germs everywhere, Nicky’s mummy always wrote a note for her to stay off school.
Why didn’t my mother do that? It was only when I had my adenoids and tonsils out, appendix out, and a few fractured ankle bones and ripped ligaments that I ever got to stay off school.
It’s a real Protestant Work Ethic (PWE) thing isn’t it? Go to school, feel shite, can’t think straight because your head is a blur and infect everyone else. Great idea.
But I grew up on that and diligently continued down the same road. Unless it was life or death, or you couldn’t walk (limping was no excuse), you should turn up for work.
I turned into work regardless of how crap I felt. I expected my staff to do the same. One of them, a civil servant in London, smugly claimed that she never exceeded her sick allocation. Uh?!! I suddenly learned not only was there annual leave, there was sick leave to add on to that, regardless of whether you were sick if you knew how to play the system.
At one point, as a journalist, I got some sort of colic. No idea why or from where, but we had to call the doctor out because I couldn’t even walk down the street to the surgery. What did I get? Endless ringing up from the news editor asking when I would be back to work. I appreciate she obviously also was brought up with the same PWE, but how the hell did I know when I was going to be able to walk upright again and not keel over in a heap? I couldn’t even get down the stairs to the ‘phone. Fortunately. So it fell to Partner to be nice and say, no I wasn’t better yet.
It was many years later when I was sitting in the car, clogged up with a cold, determined to get into work, and I felt dizzy. I didn’t think being in charge of an Audi A4 and going dizzy was too good an idea. Or any vehicle as far as that went. Alert? No. Reactions? Crap.
I got out of the car and rang in sick.
After that, I gave myself a new rule and chucked off years of the PWE. If I couldn’t drive confidently because I had a muzzy head, or get myself to the bus stop, what the hell use was I going to be taking important decisions at work? Office time? Face time? So I actually started taking sick leave. Unpopular.
But what is the point? You spend all day, sitting in the office, getting nothing done, and I mean, nothing, because you can’t concentrate, and you cheerfully ensure that everyone who comes remotely near you, also gets whatever local bug is going around. And, by going to work, you continue depleting your natural resources that should be helping you to recover. How stupid is that when a few days off would help you to recover much more quickly?
What also happens? Well everyone using public transport also generously shares it around too. My partner almost certainly caught his vile cold from the local bus.
Occasionally, when you live with someone, you may be lucky enough to avoid their cold, but mostly, you spend one or two days waiting for the blocked nose, the sore throat, the thick head. It usually arrives.
He’s currently on Day 4 of Crap Cold from Hell. I am on Day 3, and for once seem to have made a faster recovery. But ….. once, in the health service, we were discussing colds and influenza and one of our clever public health doctors was telling us that just when you were thinking you were on the road to recovery – the little bastards turn around and bite you in the nose/throat/head wherever and spin off into a different variant. And you are sick all over again.
I thought I would do a little tinties search to see what the latest advice on colds is. It used to be: they only last three days and if it is any longer go and and bother your GP. (Uselessly I might add as GPs can prescribe nothing for it, and therefore a total waste of NHS money).
So I was mildly surprised to discover that a common cold now normally lasts for a week, two weeks or even three. Well I knew that, so why did I get grief for taking time off for it many years ago? Ah, thinking has moved on. Although I am sure I would still get grief. The cold may last for weeks but does it merit staying at home to recover faster and keep your cold to yourself?
What a crazy system. All the advice is that colds are spread by common contact. You need lots of rest, fluids and all the rest of it (soup), and how the hell do you get that if you are pressurised to go into work and share your germs with everyone else?
Your doctor (ie UK GP) can prescribe absolutely nothing of any use. A cold is a virus and not a bacterial infection so antibiotics are a waste of space – although clearly not a waste of money to pharmaceutical companies.
The only reason you need to go to your GP is to get a sick note, whereupon, depending on whether they like you or not, they decide whether or not you are capable of returning to work. And if they don’t like you, there you go, back on the treadmill again. Not fully recovered, sharing your cold with everyone you meet and work with, and still feeling like shit.
I am sure a peer analysis-reviewed study might possibly come to the same conclusion as me. More working days and hours are lost by people turning in sick to work than are gained. Sick people achieve nothing at work and they manage to make everyone else sick too.
So all I can say is, if you are sick, do try and stay at home.
The sad truth is, most people don’t have a choice, or they will lose their job. And THAT is just one of the many aspects of our society that is so fucked-up.
Turn into work if you are sick. Who cares if you can do the job – or how well you do it. Who cares if other people end up sick. You are paid to turn in. Not to stay at home to get better.
More on cold treatments/remedies back on this post about paracetamol.
And an interesting poster from Organic Lassie along the same theme.