Being sick

Laura said: Nov 19, 2006
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

It’s that time of year: colds and flu going around everywhere. As both a teacher and parent, I’d be interested in your thoughts about having lessons while sick.

Since music lessons tend to be up close and personal (for correcting hands, etc.), I think it is important and courteous not to pass on illnesses during this time. However, where do you draw the line? Teachers, would you stop teaching over a minor sniffle or a pesky cough? Parents, would you bring your kids to their lessons if these were their only symptoms? Is it OK if everyone knows how to contain their germs properly (washing hands, not coughing or sneezing directly at anyone), or is it mandatory to be absolutely germ-free?

I’d be curious to hear where everyone stands on this.

said: Nov 19, 2006
 103 posts

My feeling on the subject is that if a student comes for a lesson with a slight cold (maybe a runny nose, slight cough) then as long as they are “containing” themselves it doesn’t bother me too much.
- However, if I see that they have been wiping their nose, or blowing it, coughing or sneezing a lot, I ask them to go and wash their hands in the washroom before we continue.

I do appreciate it though when parents don’t bring their sick children to their lesson, because if I get sick I may have to cancel some lessons (mainly if I caught the flu) and it means I’m likely to pass it along to the rest of my family as I teach out of my home.

When a parent calls to say that their child has a fever/strep throat/or Chicken pox etc., I would much rather give them a make-up lesson on another day when they are no longer contagous or are feeling better.

said: Nov 19, 2006
 104 posts

Since there’s no way to maintain a germ-free environment, I think it just calls for common sense. A child or adult who is coughing (particularly a wet cough) or has a runny nose that can’t be contained should not be out in public, period. However, people can and do take medications to hide these symptoms—it doesn’t really make them any less contagious, so the reality is that you are likely being exposed to people who are contagious but not obviously so.

I think everday colds should be treated differently than an illness with a fever—if people cancelled all of their activities when they got colds, the world would need to go on break from October through April. I do take my children to lessons when they have a common cold with symptoms that can be treated with over-the-counter meds. I definitely am more willing to cancel the lesson in a studio where I can have a make-up lesson. If no make-ups are available, I will only cancel for serious illness.

As a teacher myself, I also take extra measures to keep myself healthy. I always get a flu shot. I use Purell all day long. I keep my hands away from my face. Working at a university, the environment is much less sanitary than your private home studio. Keep a can of lysol around during cold season and spray it periodically. Keep kleenex handy with a small, covered trash can so that students who need a tissue can have one and dispose of it immediately. Keep out Purell for students, and keep alcohol wipes for yoursel (it’s very drying but it really kills everything). The reality is that people are the most contagious just before they show signs of an illness—-so that sweet little bright-eyed student who just gave you a hug may be harboring a bug while the one with the dry cough may just be asthmatic.

said: Nov 19, 2006
 38 posts

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I’ve only come up with two small things, but its worked so far. Knock on wood!

I keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer and use it between lessons, and ask my students to use it as well. I’ve tried really hard these past few weeks to remember to not touch my own nose or mouth while teaching so that if someone does pass germs on to me, they stay on my hands. I also always have a large box in my studio, and have offered kleenexes to many a small child at lesson time.

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 20, 2006
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

As a teacher, I try to approach each student with a just washed with soap and warm/hot water set of hands. Soap and heat for germs; heat also has the benefit of keeping hands warm so that students don’t get a cold touch from me!

I’m thinking of using antibacterial gels or lotions as well, since constant hand-washing promotes dry skin (I have a dry/itchy skin problem without extra hand washing!)

I also re-schedule lessons when I think I may be contagious, and I ask all students to re-schedule lessons if they think they are contagious.

In addition—to whomever posted about NOT cancelling activities for the common cold: I’ve found that if I do cancel activities for a couple of days, and really follow the rest/drink lots of fluids/etc., I get well sooner than if I just pop a few decongestant/cough suppressant pills and plow through my work.

Heidi said: Nov 20, 2006
 Violin
33 posts

Be aware that antibiotic soaps and lotions often contain triclosan, which may cause birth defects, depressed immune systems, and cancer as well as delay brain development among other things. http://www.grinningplanet.com/2005/10-04/triclosan-article.htm Regular soap and water will wash away germs without harm to environments.
NPR’s Living on Earth did a story on triclosan earlier this month, which discusses how triclosan may inhibit thyroid function important to early brain development: http://www.loe.org/shows/shows.htm?programID=06-P13-00044#feature1

Laura said: Nov 20, 2006
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

Great posts! Thank you—keep them coming!

One angle I haven’t read much about yet is how parents feel about sick-ish teachers. Are you more put off by a teacher who is a little sniffly or coughing during lesson time, or by one who cancels a lesson over “just a little cold”? This is assuming, of course, that the mature adult teacher does handle oneself properly (washing hands, not coughing at people, etc.) in such circumstances.

Personally, I don’t mind if the teacher has a few cold symptoms that are well controlled and don’t otherwise affect his/her overall disposition or normal ability to speak. As a teacher myself though, I’m very self-conscious of how parents would feel about me if I were ever to be like that.

said: Nov 20, 2006
 Violin, Guitar, Flute, Cello, Viola
120 posts

I have taught when I had a cold, but I am extremely conscientious about the possible spreak of germs and handling a student’s instrument and touching the student to correct posture. I make sure I wash my hands after blowing my nose, even if it’s several times per lesson. I ask parents to tune their child’s violin, and I usually refrain that day from doing a lot of adjusting of bow hold or violin hand. I keep my distance so that I do not breathe on them, too.

I basically decided that I can teach with a cold, even one where I am pretty sniffly, because I am extremely careful. If I had a fever I would cancel lessons. I have wondered how parents felt about it, but so far I think they have not minded. I am curious what parents on this forum think, too.

Being careful not to get exposed to germs is another story. Some of the little ones do not know how to handle the oncoming sneeze while holding a violin, and I’ve gotten caught unaware! There’s nothing like getting a full-on sneeze in the face! I ask parents to take kids to the bathroom to wash their hands when I notice that their nose is running and they are wiping with their hands. I’ve been coughed on and breathed on. Fortunately (knock on wood) my immune system’s pretty good. Fortunately, most of my parents don’t bring their child to the lesson when they think they are contagious, which I appreciate. Of course, many have come when they had runny noses, coughs, and even sore throats. Everyone just tries to be careful—as profcornelia said, the world would shut down if we all stayed home for every cold.

said: Nov 21, 2006
 55 posts

In our house, if our children are too sick to go to school then they are too sick to go to their lessons. Fortunately, this rarely happens.

As a teacher, it drives me crazy to have a family show up saying, “Susie was home from school throwing up today”, yet they show up for the lesson! I suppose that is one danger of having a “no makeup” policy for missed lessons. Plus, some parents do not understand that bringing a sick child to a lesson can be a complete waste of time because the poor child can simply not focus long enough to accomplish anything.

Lynn said: Nov 21, 2006
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

I flat out will not teach sick kids—and I make no apology for declining to expose myself, or have my studio become one more place where children can pick up germs. I have my parents pretty well trained, so I have not had to actually turn anyone away at the door. But I would. If my parents are in doubt as to whether to bring them, they call me, which I appreciate. I do not give make up lessons, but what I offer is a phone conference during the scheduled lesson time. Since I do not schedule parent conferences, those phone lessons are sometimes more valuable than if the sudent actually came. I also do occasionally have students who seem to get one infection on top of another all winter. We do the best we can, and I find ways to build in extra time through the spring and summer to compensate.

Melissa said: Dec 1, 2006
 Piano, Flute
151 posts

I like Lucy’s fortitude on this matter!

Most often my families do use commom sense and do not come when they are contagious, but it does of course happen and when it does, I say excuse me, I go into the kitchen and drink a glass of Airborne.
I make sure the child has washed their hands and at the end of their lessons, I wash the keys with a mild soap.
If I’m sick to the point where it is getting in my way of teaching, I don’t teach.

Laurel said: Dec 2, 2006
Laurel MacCullochViolin
Langley, BC
120 posts

What’s Airborne?

Laurel

Jennifer Visick said: Dec 4, 2006
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Airborne is a pill that dissolves in a glass of water (like alka-selzer); it contains various different vitamin supplements, minerals, and herbs, the combination of which is supposed to boost your immune system in an immediate (within 20 minutes) context. It claims to work better than taking pills because, as a drink, the ingredients are absorbed faster than a pill would be.

Instructions on the bottles I’ve seen say to take it before entering a classroom or airplane or other enclosed, potentially germ-y space, and also take it “at the first sign” of a cough or cold….

I’ve tried it and I think it may have helped me, but on the other hand, I think it tastes so nasty, it may just have been the placebo effect (If I’m going to drink this, it had better work!!!!) However some people are not as repulsed by the taste as I was.

It claims to have been invented by a classroom teacher who was tired of getting sick all the time.

Heidi said: Dec 4, 2006
 Violin
33 posts

This year I discovered that the Lemon-Lime flavor of Airborne is not as bad as the original flavor. Actually quite tasty. I haven’t tried the fruit flavor yet.. Apparently there is a version for children, too. http://www.airborne-cold-remedy-formula-medicine.com/airborne-cold-remedy.html

Melissa said: Dec 4, 2006
 Piano, Flute
151 posts

I like the taste!!
It seems to help me.
Where I live you can buy it most anywhere. Look in the pharmacy section where cold remedies are sold and/or ask.
Also, if you are not in favor of flu shots, try taking Ossilicoccinum, you can find it pretty much any where too.
Don’t take it as directed. Instead, take a very small cap-size amount, and put it under you tongue once a week. Taking it this way can prevent you from catching the flu.
I did receive my flu shot, but I have my son take Ossillicoccinum and it seems to help him.

Jennifer Visick said: Dec 4, 2006
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Having never heard of Ossilococcinum, I did a quick internet search, and quickly became more than a little skeptical. Although it seems to have many adherents, it’s efficacy is at best highly doubtful, since it is diluted to such a degree that the probability of there being anything in the bottle besides the inactive ingredients (water and a form of milk sugar—lactose—) is less than one in a googol (not hyperbole). Also, if there does happen to be a bit of the active ingredient, it is made of dissolved duck liver and heart (!); which is odd to say the least, since there seems to be no evidence that such a concoction is significantly beneficial beyond the placebo effect.

Laura said: Dec 6, 2006
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

We use Ossilococcinum and I honestly believe it works. The only problem with knowing for sure is that it’s supposed to work at the onset of flu symptoms, preventing it from getting any worse. But how would you know whether your impending flu has been stopped in its tracks, or if you didn’t have the flu too badly in the first place? Thus it’s tricky to actually prove in a black and white manner. You could only get a feel for it if you take it regularly over several years, and consider how sick you have gotten during that time, and how badly.

Ossilococcinum is a homeopathic remedy. All homeopathic remedies are extremely dilute, and are considered more powerful under greater dilution. It has to do with some energy/resonance thing. They are not designed to work chemically (i.e. based on molecular reactions), so don’t be put off by the “it’s so dilute it’s nothing” argument. I was a former skeptic, but have literally been cured and changed by homeopathic remedies in ways that have surprised me and those who know me. It works, but in a way that Western science lacks the tools to prove.

For the purposes of getting back on topic, do consider Ossilococcinum. It might be a very helpful product for teachers and students during flu season.

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