Virtues in Charity: Sickness Etiquette

We are now heading into the infamous cold season!  There will be lots of viruses going around and you want to try to avoid them as much as possible and the answer is NOT getting the flu shot!  I know a lot of people that get the flu shot and they still get the flu.  It is not the answer folks, just a bunch more chemicals that you don’t need in your blood stream.This is a very sensitive topic because people do not like to think about sickness nor about being responsible for  spreading the sickness to others. As believers in Christ, we ought to be mindful of this.  People just like to get together and have a good time of fellowship.  They do not want to stay home or keep their kids home when one or more members of the family are infected with a virus.

When we do find out of others sickness, we ought to pray for them, send meals, or offer some kind of help where it is needed.  That is also a kind and merciful way to be.  You surely do not want to make people feel like you are avoiding them like the plague, you want to be loving and compassionate at the same time.  You may not want to share a cup with them or get too close, but you could still pray for them and comfort them in some way.

​Here is a little story about an experience I had years ago…

About 5 years ago we were having a home fellowship with a few families and I just thought it was common etiquette for people to let you know ahead of time if they are sick.  One time just before we started our meeting, I noticed a mother doing something with her children’s hair and I wondered what she was doing so intently.  She later said that the kids had lice, but that she treated it that morning with a natural shampoo and that they won’t spread it to others.  This was after my girls were huddled in a little circle giggling and touching heads with the girls who had the lice treatment.

The mother assured me that we would not get lice.  She even told me that we might feel itchy just thinking about it but that it would be in our mind only!  So days passed and we became very itchy on our heads, I told her that I think we had lice, and she got upset and said that if we had it, it must be from our cow.  Well, at that time I had been around animals long enough to know that they do not carry human lice.  I tried the poisons over the counter at the drug store to treat the lice to no avail.  And the friend became mean.  She did not want to accept any sort of responsibility for bringing such a huge burden on our family.  It actually made her so mad that she stopped being my friend over it.

It was a monumental thing.  We had two weeks of misery dealing with the outbreak and trying to get it all under control.  We vacuumed the whole house, bagged up all the pillows, disinfected everything and did another round of treatment which did not work.  I then had to do some serious research because my own head was full of lice and it was very miserable.  We finally found that Lysterine under a shower cap for one hour rinsed out with vinegar worked, and we were lice-free! (It does burn a little, so if you try this at home, be careful not to get it into anyone’s eyes!)  

I was upset that she did not let us know before she came, I would have told her to stay home.  During our infection of lice, I stayed away from others, since I did not want to pass it along.  Even weeks after the lice infestation seemed to be long passed, I still would let others know that we had it and that we had treated it.  I told them we were not having any symptoms but I gave them the opportunity to still decline our invitation if they were worried about still being at risk of exposure.  It was a hard time.  I hated staying away from others, but I loved them more than myself.  I felt that I would put others at risk and that that was not a good testimony.

Through the years I have seen countless families take everyone’s health in their hands by showing up with either sick children or they leave sick children at home and bring the ones that are carrying the sickness.  You see, if there are sick children who have the symptoms, the ones that still did not show the symptoms are just incubating the virus and are actually the most contagious of all.  They go into public areas and leave the virus on every surface to give to all that are there.  That is why many times you see entire churches or schools shut down because a virus will spread like wildfire.

A friend of mine brought her 3 week old baby to church and noticed a family with a couple kids who were coughing and even looked like they had fever.  As a result of that exposure, her baby got so sick that she had to put the baby on heavy antibiotics and after 2 years of life, his health is still compromised from what he went through when he was a tiny baby. And it was all because someone did not consider others when they wanted to come to church with their sick children.

Old people can die if they get infected with certain viruses because they have a weaker immune system.  When you practice the Love of Christ and loving your neighbor as yourself, you do not bring viruses to others.  It is selfish to do so.  ​

Hundreds of years ago, entire families and communities would be wiped out because of a virus.  Back then people did not take care to wash their hands and they did not understand how viruses spread.  Even doctors would spread disease because they would not wash their hands in between patients.  We live in a day and age where this is much less common because we learn about good hygiene and the importance of washing your hands.

My mother is a nurse and she had to learn about these things because she was with sick people all the time. If she did not take proper precautions, she would be sick often.  Growing up with a nurse as a mother has been helpful to me.  I learned how to properly wash my hands and that washing my hands before I eat is a good practice.

As I grew into a mother, I learned some great tricks that help us all from getting sick.  I want to share a few of these great tips today…

Never share cups!

  • Viruses are spread through saliva and mucus membranes, so if you share a cup, even if it is your family member, if they are carrying a virus, you will surely get it as well.  We went to an Amish church meeting and they would all be sick at the same time and then I saw that one lone cup sitting by the sink that EVERYONE shared.  That was the reason they were all sick at the same time because they all spread the germs one to another.  You can also get mouth sores and herpes from sharing cups and your chap stick.

Do NOT double dip!  

  • When you have salsa or are serving a dip of some kind, put a spoon in there and encourage people to put the dip on their plate.  Teach your kids at home not to double, triple, quadruple dip!  Some of you moms let your kids just lick their pretzels and keep on dipping in the same dip everyone is using.  I see this happen a lot!  And it is really gross!  Not cute!  Little children can learn how to keep their licking to their own plate.

Get your hands out of the snack bags!

  • If you only knew where people put their hands before they put their hands into the bag of chips, you would never eat another chip from a bag again.  Some kids take themselves to the bathroom, and they ‘forget’ to flush or wash their hands and that is because they are kids—it happens.  And at gatherings, the kids might be off digging for bugs under a rock, or petting the dog, picking up a cat, you just don’t know. But, when they put their hand in the bag, they are leaving some treasures behind.  They wipe their snotty nose with the same hand they dig into the bag with.  Yes, I see this all the time!  This is how people can get parasites and other viruses.  Teach your kids at home, or adults to wash their hands first before getting in line for their snacks or food.  Another great idea is to just pour out the bag of snacks into a bowl with a set of tongs to serve the chips with.

Wash your hands frequently!

  • This is a good habit to have.  It really helps to do this often.  Wash your hands after petting the animals, after the bathroom visit, before you eat, after you go to a public place, and even after you shake a persons hand.  I know it sounds crazy, but I am telling you, you just never know.  Maybe you do not even want to know.  I just take hand sanitizer with me everywhere.  I make it with essential oils in a solution of witch hazel, vodka, or vinegar.  I put it into a little one dollar spray bottle and it works great.  I spray my hands and the kids hands frequently when we are out and about.  Even when they wash their hands in a public restroom, I still spray their hands just to be on the safe side, because they could touch the door handle which is very loaded with nasty germs.  I use it after I pump gas for sure, or handle pocket change.

Cover your mouth when coughing!

  • Everyone should already know this one, but a lot of people do not practice it.  I see kids coughing right into the food everyone is supposed to eat!  I am just not sure they are taught at home to be careful about that.  I know kids just don’t think, so that is why we as parents have to do the thinking for them.  If your child has a hard time remembering, then perhaps you should have them stay away from the food table and you should gather their food for them. Reminding, teaching, helping them to find a tissue or cough into the sleeve of their shirt.  Into the hand is not as good because then the germs are on the hand and that hand is now digging into the food or shaking hands with others, or touching every surface they see.  Or better yet, when your child is coughing, keep them home!

Stay away from Sugar!

  • When you are around sick people, if you eat a bunch of sugar, you will wear down your immune system, too.  Sugar will help your virus grow faster and it will make your viruses stay longer in your system.  Drink lots of water, get plenty of rest, and eat nutrient rich foods.  Stay away from junk food because it all taxes your children’s immune systems.  The best line of defense is gut health and sugar control.  80% of your immune system is in your gut, so if you can keep yourself healthy that way, you can also build up more of a fighting chance when you are exposed to germs and viruses.

I must sound insensitive, or like a person with OCD germaphobia!  Well, we don’t like getting sick!  In fact, if I find out a family is sick, I already know they will be going to church with their sickness, so we just stay home.  We have to be on top of it because we have a daughter who has a more delicate health with her diabetes.  For us, a stomach flu could turn into a very critical hospital visit for her.  We just have to be more careful.  And I think about the elderly, they are just so sensitive to illness and it could be very critical for them as well.

After reading this you probably wonder if you can go anywhere, well, let’s not jump the gun!  Lets just learn from this and be more courteous, and learn to just take a few simple steps in preventing the spread of viruses.

“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:31

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23 thoughts on “Virtues in Charity: Sickness Etiquette”

  1. Great Blog!
    Hi Erin, came actress your cleaning video in You tube. Your Dressing Style and call nature made me very keen to know about you more. Going through your Blogs, each Posts are usefull and a blessing for me.
    GOD BLESS you and your Family.
    Wish you all a blessed Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year 2016

  2. It’s sad that stuff like this needs to be published because it should be common sense. My SIL kindly shared whooping cough with lots of people because of a lack of common sense. When she had to take her daughter to the hospital family stepped up to stay with her kids she acted like an ungreatful baby because things weren’t done her way while she was gone. I think when your sick or family is sick and someone goes out of their way to help you should be great full.

  3. I’m not from the US but where we live children are taught to cough into the inside of their elbow rather than their hand. The elbow contains the cough better and the germs aren’t transferred to the hand to be spread to others.

  4. Thank you Thank you Thank you! !! We have asked folks at church to PLEASE tell us when they have sickness in the home (since we know they won’t stay home ) so WE can stay home but they refuse. My daughter was nearly deaf as a result of a year of constant sickness. Finally, we stayed away and she is getting strong and healthy again. Let people know at least, then they can decide if they want your sickness. I always appreciate your frank, candid writing! Thank you!

  5. You are so right! My son missed so many school days last year because his classmates came to school sick and then he had a reaction to the antibiotics. We are pretty lax about drinking after each other but wash our hands constantly. Please share your recipe for hand sanitizer. I don’t like the ones available in stores.

  6. Great thoughts Erin. Thank you for sharing this. As a mother to a special need baby, I get so mad when this happens and I want to just stay at home and not go anywhere else, ever….but I remember that I have to go…LOL! People should have more decency and already know this. It is proper manners.

  7. Great post!! I struggle with deciding if it’s “bad enough” to stay home. Obviously if there have been any fevers/vomiting/constant cough, we stay home. But what about a slight cold? It seems like from October-March, at least 1 person in my family of 7 has a mild cold.
    Not so much runny noses, just a slight mucousy cough. What is your opinion in that scenario? Right now 2 of my 5 kids have this “slight cough” and I’m tempted to keep them home from gym class today. But sometimes I wonder if that’s just the homebody in me talking lol!

  8. My son had leukemia when he was 16 months old. It meant 31/2 years of chemo. I can’t even count the numbers of time I walked into church and right back out for many of the reasons you discussed. Families bring the well children when they are the ones carrying what the ones at home have. This was in a small fellowship where everyone knew about our son and loved us but just didn’t understand diseases and germs.

  9. Oh and we had the same thing happen with the lice!! We had some friends over for a fellowship one evening only to find one mother picking at her sons head because of lice!! After everyone left my husband and I stayed up till 4 am cleaning and disinfecting! We showered all our kids and moved all our upholstered furniture into the garage!! At the time we were totally frustrated and exhausted. Now we can laugh about it, kinda 😉 if.
    If that family only knew we sat around on hardwood floors for weeks while our furniture ‘quarantined’!!! Lol.
    We avoided an outbreak though… My head itches just at the thought of it!

  10. It really makes me wonder how starving for fellowship someone has to be to bring their sick and sometimes vomiting children to a function? We are on week number 3 of sickness after just recovering from something we caught from someone two weeks before (did I mention I’m pregnant and exhausted ;)) One of my poor daughters has a very weak immune system and recovers very slowly. If people only knew the weeks of recovery time their germs cause for countless others including those in very delicate health already, the elderly, babies etc.
    This may sound terrible but I’ll really hesitate to attend anything once we all get better…lest the vicious cycle start all over again for that ‘one snotty kid’ someone insists on bringing 🙁
    Erin, your article should be a public service announcement! ?

  11. Thank you for addressing this. My son and 2 of his friends got H1n1 after going to church with a child who had the vaccine and came down with vomiting and fever before church. Long ago my husband and I decided to staying home when we had one sick child because we didn’t know who was next. Some times it was for a couple weeks as another brother came down sick Friday. I wish others cared enough to stay away, but you would see them come with drippy noses and know again, that you were at risk. I have a friend who has been struggling with lice in her home and she will treat before church then come later in the same day. It is frustrating. Thankfully my kids haven’t got the lice! How to teach people to care.

  12. Great post, Erin! I couldn’t agree more. Our third child ended up being hospitalized for 3 days after catching rotavirus from another child at church. She was not even 2 months old and ended up with pneumonia as well. This was a challenging time for us because my husband was deployed at the time. People really do need to consider others before they make such important decisions. Tunnel vision gets us all at times. Thanks, for sharing!

  13. Thank you so much for a great article!
    It aggravates me when people will ask why we weren’t at church or other functions and I say we were sick, and then they say, “Aw, you should have came anyway!”

  14. Jennifer Bontrager

    I am so glad you wrote this. It frustrates me to no end to be sitting in church and hearing someone coughing away. I have worked in nurseries where children are dropped off and later I realize that they are burning up with fever. Turns out their siblings have the flu. Now all 20 children in the nursery as well as the workers have been exposed. Please stay home.

  15. Thank you for saying it! I had a mom drop her son off in nursery at church and tell me that he would be extra fussy because he was sick. I suggested he might feel better staying with his mommy, but she left him anyway. Well, he threw up all ,over the snack table and then his mom kept him at church and brought him to the potluck after!

  16. Great article Erin! I was surprised at your “friend’s” behaviour ~ wow, what pride!! It sounds a lot like the people who say that if you get the flu after you get the flu shot, then you already had it coming and it wasn’t from the shot itself. Blows my mind…
    Anyway, when my third child was born (who’s now 16), I contracted Lice from the hospital bed where I gave birth!! Not sure if the hospital knew of the lady before me that had used the bed and obviously had lice, but in any case I’m not so sure they dis-infected the bed as well as they could have! It was extremely upsetting to be dealing with two toddlers, a new born, and lice all at once. I also had my young cousin girls staying over at our house to help out with things, so as soon as I found out that I had lice I immediately called their moms and let them know what had happened. I went ahead and treated the girls hair with vinegar and mayonnaise before I sent them home, so they would at least have a good start. My poor husband spent 4 hours that night combing through my thick, illustrious, pregnancy hormone grown head of hair that was down to my rear ~ it was total agony that night. Not fun!
    So, yes it’s always a good idea to let people know ahead of time (if you know) that they could be affected by whatever it is you have.
    Of course, you could have the opposite reaction as well….. When 3 of our kids contracted the chicken pox a few months ago, I actually had friends yell at me that I didn’t let them know!! LOL They had WANTED to have a chicken pox party 😉 😉
    Thank you for all of your great articles, Erin, I enjoy reading them all 🙂

  17. Thank you Erin on your great sound advice on spreading germs. The Listerine on hair is a good idea and I will make some of your hand sanitizer too. Building up your immune system with Vit C Vit D and omega 3 and eating really well is good too. Washing your hands is so important. Could you share any other remedies you have .Thank you my friend xx Vicki

  18. We actually stayed home from our homeschool co op today because two of my nine are sick. I figured I’d better contain it and not expose everyone else. It seems that during sick seasons, our family will go to church, get sick, and then be out for the count for several weeks because there are so many of us under one roof for it it make the rounds. Then once we are all better, we go back to church and catch something else, and it all starts all over again… It is very frustrating when people are not considerate of how much of a burden it can be to a family when they are careless about spreading these things. We had the same situation you describe with the lice. It was awful; and I was in the throes of morning sickness at the time so that made it worse! So I always try to stay away if we are sick, and warn people to stay away from us as well.

  19. When my children were little, on most Tuesdays after being in the nursery in church on Sundays, they were sick! It was SO frustrating. Preschools must be breeding grounds for children getting sick and I was watching a news program about the upcoming flu season. They said the flu is so prevalent in the fall and winter due to all of the children being back at school; another great reason to homeschool! Great post, Erin.

  20. I could not have said it better. If we are sick, we all stay home. It is very upsetting to go somewhere, especially church and see kids coughing all over the place. Stay home!!! That is where God wants us to be when we are sick!! Glad I am not the only person in the world that feels there needs to be better manners in this department. I always think if you have a large family and they all get sick, it results in months of sickness!! Thank you, Erin, for all of your sharing.

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