Perhaps booking a cruise with 50 other nationalities from all over the world wasn’t our best plan just as a pandemic was emerging! We transited one of the busiest airports in the world and mingled in the thick of it with lots of people in 3 countries.
We took precautions, washed our hands a lot more, sanitised and used hand gel. How much we touched our faces, we don’t know!
Then returning from our lovely trip to the Middle East both Dadonthebrink and I were feeling rubbish. Now, this is at the same time that coronavirus was really blowing up both in the news and quietly as a pandemic too.
To self-quarantine or not?
We decided to self-quarantine, stay at home and not go anywhere.
The children, however, were healthy fit and ready to go to school.
We still sought medical advice to find out whether to keep them home or not. After describing where we had been, what we had done, the contacts we had been in touch with the infection control person, I was talking to on the phone, decided it was totally fine for the children to go to school. I asked whether he was sure and on his repeated confirmation. We allowed the kids to go to school.
While I didn’t agree with the doctor on the phone, being ill, I voiced my concern, but had no energy to argue. The responsibility was shifted to them. (With hindsight and how the pandemic is playing out, I’m not sure that was the right action from us. You see, both Dadonthebrink and I are animal scientists and we have worked with high health herds, where management of any infection is very important. The spread of disease and how to prevent them head being drilled into us. Yet we were advised to act against all our training and potentially expose more.)
Today, the 13th of March, with the spread as it’s gone, I would make a different decision. I would have the kids stay at home too, only allowing them out for short walks in the park. (Though Sweden is still following a principle of controlled spread to aim for a herd-immunity among those who seem to be less affected.)
The progression of our symptoms
The flu-like symptoms, for me, came full-blown 5 days after we returned: pain all over, chills, fever and feeling like a bulldozer had just gone over me. I had a stomach flu (controllable but totally fluid stools, about every half hour to 2 hours, with no urgency to go) accompanied by dry cough, shortness of breathe and chest pains with a high fever for 2 days.
By the following weekend I was feeling well, just the cough remains.
Quarantine within a small home
In the meantime, as soon as the symptoms started, I locked myself in our tiny bedroom, closing the door, opening the window to air.
Dadonthebrink looked in it on me intermittently. (By now he was quite well, for him it had been just a bad cold which he catches after most flights.). He was sleeping on the sofa in the living room. He made sure I had a bottle of water, a glass and rehydration powder. I made sure, however rubbish I was feeling, that I was drinking often.
The children weren’t allowed past the door, where they would stand peeping in, sometimes, if I wasn’t sleeping, and have a couple of words to chat. I wasn’t really eating anything so sharing the kitchen was not an issue.
We share a small bathroom between the 5 of us: I made sure to use a separate towel from everyone and to spray down- with a diluted bleach solution- and wipe down the toilet and sink after each use. (Our loo and loo brush have never been this clean!!! Not too mention the sink and surroundings.)
We also had a candle burning in the bathroom: I don’t know if it’s any use for purification, I know it works against smells. It’s actually a little reassuring to see the flicker of flame too. There’s something primeval and healing about a flame.
Dadonthebrink came down with it a day or two after me. He took over the living room sofa and kids weren’t allowed withing 2-3m of him. He had the window cracked open 24 hours a day to give ventilation.
My Flu Remedies
Knowing this was the real deal and that there is no real remedy against any flu besides resting to give the body the best chance to fight it. My flu remedy was:
- Rest rest and sleep (because you know Sleep is Magic and it allows the body to concentrate on repairs instead of other functions)
- Keeping my fever down with paracetamol (which we have plenty of, because I always have a stock. We can’t take ibuprofen, for other health reasons.)
- Rehydration fluids to keep my electrolyte balance. Knowing that diarrhea, the fever and the sweating (which was my body dumping toxins and rubbish) were taking a lot more electrolytes than I need normally.
- Elderberry syrup which is my go-to antiviral. Though this time it didn’t have the magic effect that it usually has for the seasonal flu. (I tend to make my own elderberry syrup and we have a little spoonful every morning with the kids and, for us, this usually keeps the flu and most respiratory illnesses away during the winter)
- Vitamin D, which has been shown to reduce the general susceptibility to respiratory infections, viral and bacterial.
Food and drink
Now you might think, how did we survive with Dadonthebrink and I being in self-quarantine for two weeks straight after returning from holiday?!
We usually have a week or two worth of staples within a home anyway. So returning even to an empty fridge, we had lots of things in the store cupboard and the freezer (with mostly meat and frozen fruit and veg) that we could whip up a meal with.
There was, however, a big advantage in the kids actually going to school: they get a warm, cooked meal daily. (Meaning we didn’t need to cook for them to get a balanced meal daily.)
The kids were also able to pick up milk and bread from the supermarket on the way from school. Besides that, we asked them to buy fruits, lots of fruits!
We reckoned, the best way to get through this was going to be to keep everyone healthy and make sure we’re boosting our immune system as much as possible with fruits and fresh produce:
The kids have been a starting their day with overnight oats:
A cup of oats soaked in half a cup of yoghurt and a cup of water with frozen berries mixed through. Left to stand overnight, covered, on the worktop, waiting for them at breakfast time. Some chia seeds, desiccated coconut or nuts and seeds thrown in with honey in the morning.
By the time they got time every evening I taught them how to make a small smoothie by blending together fruits:
- 1 Banana – for the potassium content
- 2 Satsumas- peeled and seeded
- 2 Kiwis- washed, but skin left on
- 1 Apple- washed, cored, but skin left on
- 2 probiotic yoghurt drink
All the ingredients blended with a hand blender till smooth.
This and some plain boiled potatoes were my meal, when I could take anything.
Walking the dog
Poor Alice has probably drew the shortest straw in this whole process: she didn’t get many walks. She was out three times a day for tiny toilet breaks. We ran out of dog food at one point so she was eating what we were eating.
On the other hand, she is the best hot water bottle and loves cuddling up and being that reassuring presence when you are feeling really rubbish.
When she gets cabin fever she just demands attention and wants you to throw her toy along the corridor which then satisfies her need for movement for a while. Whenever we did forget to feed her or give her a drink, because we were just too ill to be thinking about the dog as well, she would bring her own bowl.
Coping with cabin fever
Now when you are ill, you are ill! Cabin fever is not really an issue.
Once you start recovering, but you still feel you need to stay in, for your own and other’s health, that’s when the cabin fever sets in.
My trick was to move around spaces within our home, when no one was home. We also have a terrace, and despite the cold, I’d go and stand out there and just breathe in the fresh air and put my face to the sun for 5-10 minutes.
I think having the window open has also been really good.
How the kids cope
Our children have been very good at understanding that I that their parents are ill and we are able to do less for them.
We explained to them this the moment we felt not right: we explained we were ill and needed to stay home, stay away from people, including keeping a distance from them. (We’ve avoided contact, cuddles and kisses, which is very hard in our cuddly family.)
We emphasised the importance of sleep and them allowing us to sleep to recover quicker. This meant asking them to bicker less and not do things that we would be worried about.
… Well, this sort of worked.
It worked better after we put our foot down and grounded our teen for stepping out of boundaries.
We shared with them bits of information about global health crisis, though it was still energing as we were getting ill.
They have been really good at being self- sufficient: made their own sandwiches, Angelina has cooked one of the best meals she’s ever made. (Probably because I wasn’t standing over her shoulder and interfering, but just letting her get on with it.)
Max has been more independent in getting ready, going to school. He’s brother and sister are wonderful at picking him up on their way home from school.
They have pulled their weight really well over the past 2 weeks.
We are out the other end, but now the crisis is deepening globally. The children are hearing news stories multiple times, every single day and the rumour mill is full swing at schools. They are worried.
It’s very good to be able to say to them actually we’ve been through the hardest part of it.
Now we prepare for school closures which, I feel, are inevitably coming. And I will share with you what our plans are in the next post
How are you coping? Are one of few who have had this lurgy and survived to tell the tale?
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