Local parent, researcher and writer, Maddie Wallace, shares her experience of self-isolation in Southsea, after her son develops a dry cough.
‘Mum, I have a cough.’
There I was, enjoying a lazy Sunday morning in bed, taking a bit of extra time to relax as A, my 5 year old daughter, decided to stay with my mum and dad the night before after a huge family gathering to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. They got a card from the Queen. I got a lie in.
My 12 year old son, Z, who shares a room with his 13 year old brother, S, did indeed have a cough. I have 4 children, I’ve heard plenty of coughs. This one is different. He described it as being dry and in his throat, and that’s what it sounds like too. Not the normal phlegmy hacking from a child with an upper respiratory tract infection.
Then we remembered that he’d complained of a sore throat on Wednesday evening. We’d put it down to his usual poor attempts at hydration. Did you know that it’s uncool in senior school to drink water from a reusable metal bottle? Well it is. Also, pooing at school is out unless you want to get relentlessly mocked.
I took his temperature and it was normal. He’d eaten a bowl of Coco Pops large enough for 3 adult men for his breakfast and was still able to play Fortnite, so I wasn’t concerned.
But my mum is 81 with an autoimmune disease and my dad is 82 and has had a heart attack, so I thought I’d have a quick look at the 111 website. Given that we’d spent hours in their company the previous day, along with some of their elderly neighbours, all with their own range of health concerns.
The symptom checker said Z should self-isolate at home, but there was no advice about people he may have come into contact with, so I called 111.
That was a sobering conversation.
Covid-19 usually presents with very mild symptoms in children, often without a fever. But that doesn’t stop them being little petri dishes of lurgy that they can and do spread to others. Z is meant to stay in his room alone, so S is now sleeping on the sofa. Z has to cough into a tissue and put it straight into a bin with a lid, wash his hands more frequently (he’s a 12 year old boy so washing his hands at all is an improvement), stay 3 feet away from me and his siblings if he has to come out for the toilet, drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol.
The rest of us can go about our lives as normal, with S and A going to school, but be vigilant about avoiding vulnerable people in at-risk groups.
How can you be vigilant about avoiding at-risk people in a school setting? What if one of their classmates has asthma, or a teacher has half a lung, or a dinner lady has rheumatoid arthritis?
By Sunday evening Twitter was awash with kids talking about boycotting school, with news outlets reporting the government would amend the advice for self-isolation on Monday to include the whole household. I made the decision to keep S and A off school. When I called in this morning, both the schools thanked me. It seems that most people would prefer to avoid coming into contact with children who’ve been in direct contact with someone suspected of having the virus, and who could well be incubating it.
We’re one morning in and it’s already apparent that some serious structure will need to be implemented if I’m going to come out of this isolation with any semblance of sanity. Z is looking pretty unwell and is still in bed, but S is already playing Fortnite, and A is pregnant with a baby elephant. Elephant birth enacted by a 5 year old is a continuous loud shrieking that feels like someone is dragging metal through your skull. The dog is looking at me like she telepathically knows she probably won’t be getting many walks this week and the kitten has already pulled down the net curtains in my bedroom.
It’s going to be a long week, but it needs to be done. Z may have mild symptoms, but others won’t. It doesn’t feel right that he has to stay in his room, and I’m worried about how this will affect him after a few more days. I don’t see how we can avoid the spread of germs completely, so I anticipate me getting sick at some point. Until then, the house is going to be very clean.
Z came out to go to the loo last night. I saw him on the landing; he had his arms crossed over his chest with his hands on his shoulders so that he wouldn’t accidentally touch something. I almost cried at that.
Maddie will be sharing her experiences in a regular column for S&C, make sure you check back on the site for more details.