Fall. It’s the season of changing leaves, pumpkin everything, and the beginning of some of the best holidays. It’s also back-to-school time … and the return of back-to-school fall sickness.

Hello old friend/enemy – we meet again.fall leaves on branch

School starts in early August here in Georgia. The heat index has been over 100 degrees for nearly the entire time that we’ve lived here. But despite the summerlike temperatures, in the weeks since school has started, we’ve all been brought low by the primordial stew of viruses brewing in my son’s first grade class. 

I have a theory that every time we PCS, we encounter a new group of germs. Maybe the virus that causes the common cold in the South is slightly mutated from the one we developed immunity to in the Pacific Northwest, meaning that we must start the entire vicious cycle over again.

If any researchers or medical professionals can verify this, I’ll send you cookies. I’ll even try not to cough on them. 

tissues and glasses with white mug
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

This year’s battle with sickness and illness started in only the second week of school.

It began one morning when my son draped himself over the couch right before we had to leave and told me he was too sick to go to class. He had no symptoms, so I made him go, only to receive a phone call at lunchtime. “He’s white as a sheet, and he was crying because he thought he was going to throw up in front of everyone,” his teacher told me. Whoops.

Then impetigo insinuated itself into our lives. My toddler had red, crusty sores along her nose and chin. She’d been sniffling with a runny nose for a few days, so my first instinct was to blame it on irritation from all the wiping. But as the sores crept along the bridge of her nose and up to her eyes, I knew we were dealing with something more insidious.

I called up our Army hospital and booked her an appointment, where the pediatrician dosed her with a double-whammy of oral and topical antibiotics. Military hospitals being what they are, we waited in the pharmacy for over an hour, adding more microbes to our personal flora as we all sat together, coughing and sneezing, in the waiting area. But after fourteen days of holding my baby down and squirting the bitter pink liquid into her mouth, her face has finally cleared.

But that wasn’t all that my friend fall sickness had in store.

Meanwhile, my two sons had been coughing at night. One morning, they woke me earlier than their OK to Wake clock should have permitted, the oldest screaming, “Nolan threw up! Nolan threw up!” Owing to the very small pile of emitus on the bedspread, I assumed he’d coughed too hard and continued to get him ready for school. However, as I got him into the car, he moaned and threw up again. Of course. He had fever and chills the remainder of the day, throwing up once more when I attempted to get some Tylenol into him. Two days later, his brother succumbed. At least he knows how to puke in the bowl. 

However, after this the worst calamity struck us. My husband became sick. 

I admit, I am not very fair when my husband is sick. I tend to slam doors and huff about, rather than giving him the solicitous treatment I probably should to the person I’ve publicly promised to love and share my life with. 

But here’s the rub. Nothing enrages me more than seeing him lie down and ask feebly for water, even as he is shaking with chills in the high-nineties heat. I find myself grumbling about how I never get a break and then sending man cold memes to my friends. It’s not great for my marriage.

He stayed home one day from work, closing the door on our daily chaos while I seethed. He returned the next day, while texting me that he really should have stayed home that day as well. I nursed my own sore throat with throat coat and vitamin C. 

And then, fall sickness took it’s final victim.

Without warning, my own body gave way. I fell asleep repeatedly on the playroom floor, my younger two kids prodding me and begging me to build LEGO houses. I snapped at everyone. I canceled plans and held an ice pack to my head. Wave the white flag – we surrender.

Now, nearly five weeks later, we are all still down and out to some extent. 

I’m still coughing, and my husband proclaims that he still feels weak. I hear some coughing over the baby monitor, and my daughter’s sores haven’t completely gone away. But for the first time in almost a month, I think we might be healthy. 

Once again, we have entered fall: the pleasant parts and the oh-so-unpleasant parts. Fall sickness has struck again, and it probably will not be its last strike. So NOBODY come over. I’m hoarding my elderberry syrup and hand sanitizer. We’ll see you in the spring.