My kids have been back in school for two full weeks now and on Saturday night one of them developed a cough… the first cough in over six months. I’m really not surprised; I know the teachers and staff are working extra hard to sanitize everything and keep germs at bay, but there is only so much you can do when you have a classroom full of small children.
There are so many viruses that get passed around in school every year and, normally, we wouldn’t think anything of it, but things are much different this year. Along with a dry cough, Claire had symptoms of a runny nose and scratchy throat. She did not have a fever, wasn’t lethargic, and had no change in appetite or sense of taste/smell. But that little cough, as innocuous as it seemed, could have been a sign of Covid-19 and it was our due diligence to figure it out.
Here’s the mistake we made. While we kept Claire home from school on Monday morning and planned to ring the primary care clinic as soon as it opened, we sent her brother, Frank, to school like normal.
What I know now is that if one person in the family has a symptom of Covid, the whole family really needs to hunker down and isolate.
Claire’s virus symptoms were minor enough that we kept second guessing ourselves and questioning whether she would even be referred for a Covid test. This it is where Covid is forcing us to reexamine all of our long established protocols for illness in both ourselves and our children. I have five years of experience monitoring my kids for illness and 10 years of experience as a health care provider and this situation felt very foreign and confusing to me.
I am a little out of practice on the medical professional side as I’ve been on a career break from my role as a nurse practitioner for two years, however, as a parent and health care provider, when we hear hoof beats, we’re trained to think horses. What I mean is: when we see mild signs of illness we know that most often that it’s a simple virus that requires only conservative treatments and it will pass without much fanfare on its own.
However–and I think this is where Covid is creating a break in our confidence–these seemingly very minor symptoms could actually be a deadly virus. In order to protect others, we need to react in an overly cautious way and make mountains out of molehills. It feels awkward and uncomfortable and is incredibly disruptive to our routines and can require us to call in sick to work and miss desired activities. A simple caught can suddenly become a huge source of stress for families.
After speaking to our primary care clinic, they recommended that Claire be tested for Covid as they are currently testing all new coughs. They also said that we needed to collect Frank from school right away. Five minutes after our phone call I received a text message with the date, time and location of the Covid swab. We were starting to notice that Claire’s dry cough became more frequent throughout the day.
Frank was cross with me on our walk home from school as it was finally his turn to play with the pirate ship and he’s been waiting for his turn since school started. Thankfully he thawed a little and joined his sister at home. While the kids played, I relayed details about what would happen when we arrived at the testing center so Claire wasn’t surprised by what would happen. I made it seem like it was no big deal and I gave out the details a little bit at a time so she didn’t feel overwhelmed.
I described what the nurse would be wearing and how they would put a really long q-tip in her nose and mouth and it might tickle and feel a little uncomfortable. When we arrived, it took us about an hour from start to finish. Everyone stays in their vehicles and followed a well-marked, one-way path and the test is even performed while the patient sits in their vehicle. We’re not sure if that hour long wait time is normal, or if the volume of testing was quite high that particular day. Claire was quite distressed by the test itself, despite preparing her in advance, and we did have to hold her arms and head for the nurse to be able to swab her. After it was over she said it didn’t hurt at all.
Claire’s result returned 27 hours after the test was performed and thankfully was negative–no Covid was detected–and, as she was not a close contact of a positive test, the kids were able to go back to school the following day. It was a learning experience for us, and an experience that I suspect will play out a few times over the course of the winter.
It’s silly, but I actually felt ashamed that we suspected the Covid virus in our home because we have been working so hard to do our part to prevent the spread. How could we have possibly been exposed?
Unfortunately, the virus can still spread even when we are doing all the right things. We just have to take responsibility and get tested and isolate when symptoms pop up, and I think they will pop up at some point for most people. In the meantime, we will continue to wash our hands, keep our distance as much as possible, and wear our masks.