Thanks to Coronavirus, Get Ready for the Judgiest Flu Season Ever
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Lauren McKenzie, 35, lives in Surprise, Arizona, and recently flew to California to attend a funeral. On the return flight she felt a familiar tingling sensation in her neck, muscle tension in her chest. Oh no: she had to sneeze in an airport during a pandemic.
"The urge to take my mask off was so strong," McKenzie said. "Then the logic set in: I had to sneeze into the mask."
Her fellow travelers waiting at the gate stared at her. "I thought," I've done my civic duty, people! "It's bad, but I did it. That was the strangest feeling, the panic of that sneeze. Everyone told me to change my mask, which of course I did."
"Zero Progress": The fall of the coronavirus in autumn is already here
As the pandemic drags on into the seventh month and the temperature begins to drop, a new season brings familiar new rituals. Autumn means Halloween, pumpkin spice, cozy sweaters, scented candles - and the highest flu season that mankind has ever seen.
The coronavirus triggered a global hyper-vigilance of personal health. Any sore throat or mild headache could be the first sign of a fatal infectious disease. Or it could be nothing. Or it could be the flu.
"Our brain is so prepared to focus on symptoms and illness that there is nothing we can do about it," said Dr. Nicole Beurkens, a Michigan-based psychologist. "Somebody sneezes in Costco and all of a sudden our brains think, 'How can they do that? "
Chalk it up to the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, not the radical left militant group on the far left, but a kind of cognitive bias. "Our brain is prepared to think about what to focus on," said Dr. Beurkens. "We're hearing about COVID now. So when we see people who have colds or sneezes, we think," This is so irresponsible. "That would never have crossed our minds around this time last year."
Start thinking about something and suddenly you see it everywhere. Much like how the coronavirus spreads - one person has it and suddenly 34 others do it.
See: the White House outbreak. With little reliable information available from the presidential administration, many have to speculate about who looks sick.
We are all chair epidemiologists now, especially during the Vice-Presidential Debate when Mike Pence's eyes seemed red. Some thought it was obvious he was sick, although conjunctivitis is a rare symptom of the coronavirus.
Trump's notorious tan disappeared during his stay with Walter Reed - a sure sign, others pointed out, of the seriousness of his case. (Or just that his usual makeup person wasn't there.)
McKenzie is riding out the pandemic at home with her mother, a high-risk patient with pre-existing illnesses. She felt a "plague fear" in March that led her to accept the things she could control - wearing a mask, social distancing. "The crazy people started disappearing," McKenzie said.
But then Trump discovered the virus. “I was sitting in front of the TV and got a cough. I almost got into a full attack of anxiety. It hasn't happened in months, ”she said. "It stinks. It happens to me again - I worry about my mother and I let her catch it. It happens to everyone else. It's a constant repetition of fear."
The vice presidential debate made it worse. "This guy didn't look good at all," she said.
Rachel, a 29-year-old who lives in Bavaria, also feels uncomfortable when she hears a stray sneeze. Your colleague has had a cough problem for over a year - it definitely has nothing to do with COVID. But Rachel says the wheezing still triggers her.
"I absolutely had an urge to cough in public, too," said Rachel, who asked that her real name not be used. "I try to stop myself because I don't want others around me to worry, but when I have to, I cough into my armpit and try only once."
Dr. Kathleen Jordan, an infectious disease expert and senior vice president of medical affairs at women's health startup Tia, noted that symptoms of the common cold, flu, and coronavirus can overlap greatly.
"When we enter the flu season, it becomes difficult to tell the difference between flu and COVID from home," said Dr. Jordan. "There are certainly some flu symptoms that would warrant a coronavirus test, such as difficulty breathing, confusion, bluish lips and face."
According to the CDC, symptoms of coronavirus and flu are so similar that "it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone" - testing is the best way to suppress anxiety.
So let yourself be tested if necessary. Sneeze behind your mask if you have to. But try to be patient with yourself and others. A death look may not be the best way to respond to a stranger coughing in an airport.
"When we shame other people, it's usually about our own fears and insecurities," said Dr. Beurkens. “If I feel really motivated to shame someone for what they're doing, how dare you go back to the office? - I should turn it back myself. What am i about This is probably my fear of illness or my fear for my older grandmother. But shame is not productive for us or for them. "
As McKenzie put it, “When you cough in public, it feels like all eyes are on you. And then you feel judged when someone else does! There is this constant hypocrisy. The thoughts of 2020 that we had are all so new and interesting and terrible all at once. "
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