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A pill for every ill

I have been in the very fortunate position of not having to return to work after the Christmas break, until the Thursday after New Year. This gave me plenty of time, when all the feasting and festivities were all over, just to simply "be". No need to fight with the crowds for last-minute food shopping (the fridge still seems to be full to overflowing with all kinds of interesting bits and pieces), no need to rush about on a mad round of visiting, no deadlines to meet and not too much domesticating as the dust is happily obscured by cards and Christmas decorations; time to potter and ponder. What a privilege; I suspect that for most of us this is a rare treat, and how I enjoyed it!

On one such occasion I was idly watching the TV when an advert for a new cold remedy came on. The main selling point of which was that after taking it you would immediately feel so much better you could return to work forthwith. Maybe because of my relaxed state, this struck me as a really bad message. Just because your symptoms have been masked, doesn't mean you won't be spreading your "germs" around and passing on your infection to others. Neither will you be working efficiently, with even simple tasks taking much longer than normal.

But our present culture doesn't allow for "convalescence" - the time when there is "a gradual return to health after illness especially through rest".(1) We expect there to be a "pill for every ill" which will instantaneously return us to the healthy state and that we must return to work at the earliest opportunity. Teachers particularly feel guilty about taking time off to recover completely as the school has to provide extra cover which costs money. Hence there is the urge to return before fully well and what happens, they are more likely to succumb to the next bug!

So it was with a great sense of satisfaction to hear the experts' advice to all those who catch the Norwalk or winter vomiting virus to stay at home for 48 hours after the symptoms have completely cleared in order to minimise the spread of infection. But more importantly to me was the fact that the body would have that extra time to heal and recover its strength before meeting the next infection.

Therefore I decided one of my New Year resolutions would be to give myself sufficient recovery time before rushing back to work after a cold, cough or whatever, and that I will be passing on this message to patients too. Who knows, in the long run it might even lighten our workload!

1. Collins English Dictionary

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

This caught my eye as I have been a nurse for 40 years, hardly ever been off sick. I had a sore throat at Christmas and only took one day off. I was worried that there was no one to cover me at our drop in clinic for young people (so typical of nurses).  Then in New Year I had a sudden acute attack of reactive arthritis (this is what my GP felt I had). I now have to take time off, on my second week, feeling much better. I too had just wanted the magic 'pill' so as I could return to work, it was my GP who said NO! Rest it what you must do! I understand this now. It makes me wonder if I had rested more with my sore throat I may not have been unwell now! We do forget to listen to our bodies” - Mary Jackson, Lead Nurse for young people, Harlow

"I couldn't agree more with Sheila Beaumont. I think that health service workers are probably the worst culprits. We should understand spread of infection and immune systems better than most! Why do staff always feel they have to come back or not even go off sick and spread their germs far and wide to colleagues and patients alike (and then fail to see that they have passed on their germs) causing more sickness and stress, when staying at home to FULLY recover would be far better?" - Barbara Boyden, Nurse Specialist CFS/ME Peterborough

"Yes!" - Name and address supplied

"I think that the culture of presenteeism is increasing and that it is harmful to physical and mental health and probably not good for productivity' - Name and address supplied