PSA: an overlooked method of flu prevention

My daughter’s school district is shutting down to slow the spread of this year’s flu virus: the especially severe H3N2. Hence, don’t go shopping if you can possibly avoid it, since Walmart & grocery stores & such are where younger kids who are infected and contagious but not yet symptomatic will end up.

Taking your school-age kids day-shopping during a flu epidemic is a simple dynamic that yet again demonstrates the toxicity of the modern workplace. I’m serious. Viz.:

  1. Parents have to rearrange their schedules around their school-released kids.
  2. Kids aren’t yet showing signs of illness.
  3. Parents mistakenly assume their kids are aren’t infected.
  4. To leverage their unexpected free time, parents decide to run errands but to do so must bring along kids who are too young to stay home alone.
  5. These kids, who are essentially little time-bomb petri dishes, spread the virus.
  6. Others in the store get infected.
  7. Which is especially dangerous since the customers most susceptible and in danger of severe illness or death are exactly those who tend to shop during the day: the elderly and parents with infants.
  8. And also early retirees like me (who may not  die, but will still wish they were dead.)

So for the sake of all that’s unholy, if you MUST go shopping during a flu epidemic, figure out a way to leave your kids at home and bring a big bottle of hand sanitizer and use it liberally.

I guess that’s common sense, but I speak from bitter experience. When I was in grad school in 1993 the flu epidemic in my area got so bad that not only were schools closed, but so were college campuses. Late that week I made the mistake of going to the mall for some computer hardware. I noticed how stuffed the arcade was with, like, junior high schoolers.

And by Monday morning I was flat on my back as ill as I’d ever been…sustained fever of something like 102, delirious, barely able to make it to the bathroom, unable to eat, and completely incapable of leaving my apartment.

By midweek I’d drained all my fruit juice and Gatorade. There was a quickie-mart on the corner of my block, but I lived alone in a third-floor apartment with no elevator, and although I tried to make it there, I couldn’t even make it down my first flight of stairs.

So I had to call a good friend to make a fluid run for me. She, being a saint, not only brought me something like a case of Gatorade and several bags of easily-digestible food, but also braved the flu  to come in and check me out and make sure I didn’t need to go the hospital. Wearing, it turned out, latex gloves and a surgical facemask.

Well, it was two weeks before I felt like myself again. I don’t like to think of how dehydrated and starved and therefore much worse I might’ve gotten if my friend hadn’t been willing to risk infection herself.

So to repeat: if schools let out for contagion, don’t carelessly take your kids out shopping. This is a direct violation of the Wiccan Rede: “An it harm none, do as thou wilt.”

That’s it.

Author: ER Dude

Sick of your job? After a thirteen-year career, Early Retirement Dude fled corporate America for good. You can do it too! Visit or email

9 thoughts

  1. This season, everyone in my family just took turns getting sick and rotated in taking care of each other. Never had it this bad.

    I would blast the anti-vaccines movement and lack of hygiene from people not washing after using the “facilities”, but then I would most likely just be preaching to the choir here.

  2. From what I heard, your experience was quite similar to the 1918 Spanish flu, but in those days people living farther apart without ready communications and horse-and-buggy transport did not summon or receive aid and could not survive the illness.

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