“Sinusitis is inflammation of the paranasal  sinuses, which may be due to infection, allergy, or autoimmune issues.”

I’ve worked in a middle school in a moderate-sized suburb in SGPS for the last three years. As an educator, I knew part of my job (other than teaching, grading papers, and dispensing discipline) was going to include getting sick on a yearly basis. Within a few weeks of beginning my job in Fall 2008, I was struck with bronchitis. I would not wish this on anyone because other than making me feel like I was going to hack up a lung whenever I coughed, it took me a full month or so to recover from it. At the time, I didn’t have insurance so, on advice given to me at a free clinic, I had to resort to having my SO pound on my back to loosen mucus. It was a very tough time for me because I’m typically very healthy; my mom and sister are much more prone to seasonal cases of bronchitis. My sister is still in college and seems to get some absurdly bad illness every winter. Her lists of illnesses include a sinus infection so bad that she had a CT scan because her doctor thought she had a brain tumor, and a sinus infection that turned into bronchitis that turned into a lung infection and made her cough up brown chunks.

Last year, I had a mystery diagnosis. For the entirety of second semester, I suffered from unexplainable exhaustion. I was sleeping up to 14 hours a day and got next to nothing done. I would go to work every day, walk around like a zombie, go home to sleep for two to three hours, cook dinner, shower, and go to bed. I do suffer from seasonal depression, but since moving to SGPS, it doesn’t affect me nearly as badly since it is quite sunny all winter long. This was not an extended case of seasonal depression. My doctor (now that I have insurance) had me undergo a sleep study which turned up nothing. I had a whole barrage of blood tests done that showed nothing. No mono, no hormone problems, not a thing was wrong with me. Ironically, my sleep issued seemed to have resolved itself after going two days with no sleep and flying back to America from Europe. I’m better now, but to this day, I still don’t know what the deal was. I do blame some wacked-out virus I probably got from my school.

My first illness of the year began last week with a scratchy throat, headaches, a stale taste in my mouth, and copious amounts of green mucus. It was a sure sign of a sinus infection. I was treated last spring for a sinus infection and it seemed to have worked, but I experienced oddly green mucus for the whole summer. I was always taught that green mucus was an indicator of infection- although I have been told that it isn’t always so- and since I had a scratchy throat and headaches, I finally said that I’d go to the doctor.

I know you love hearing about my illnesses, but this brings me to my actual point. Schools are a hotbed of contagion, plain and simple. Whether it’s a middle school or university, cram any large number of people into a small space and you’re liable to get sick at some point. I know for a fact that middle schoolers are not the most reliable hand washers in existence. I know I wasn’t when I was twelve. In this time of swine flu and mutant staph infections, hand sanitizer is a classroom staple and our school nurse does hand washing tutorials at least once a year. We were taught how to do the “Batman” sneeze: instead of using your open hand (which will ultimately touch doorhandles, drinking fountains, and your face), you are to sneeze into your bent elbow. I’m not sure this is effective in preventing the spread of disease, but what I do know is that it’s very effective in getting snot on my shirtsleeves.

The final conclusion: I hate getting sick, and middle schoolers are filthy. If you are immune-compromised or elderly, don’t set foot in one unless you’re safely ensconced in a hazmat suit.

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