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The Challenge of Emetophobia During Cold-Weather Months

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Ah, the crisp air hits your face as you walk out the door this morning. Feels nice, doesn’t it? Not to me. Living with emetophobia has me in fear of the upcoming cold months. The dreadful “stomach flu” a.k.a. norovirus is on its way to a household near you. Hopefully not mine.

For many people with emetophobia, the winter can be when sh*t hits the fan. This is the season many of us prepare for the minute it gets warm. We stalk up on bleach, Clorox wipes, Lysol — all of the essentials for surviving a stomach bug. We may live in a tiny bubble during the summer, with rose-colored glasses thinking we will not get sick. It’s warm out, the sun is shining — germs are not a thing to think of right now. This is often false though, because the stomach bug can be lurking when we least expect it. I do feel more safe than usual though. Or maybe I’m in total denial.

Kids start back at school. We go to our jobs. We talk to people, share things, and eventually we share germs. The colds start; that’s when we may start to get nervous. It means it is right around the corner, waiting for its next prey. This is personally when my cleaning rituals become intense. Hand sanitizer in the car, in my purse, in the diaper bag — everywhere. I start Lysol-ing door knobs, I hand-wash constantly, I limit my food intake if I have come into contact with someone who has been nauseous. In my brain, not having food in my stomach means no vomiting. I lose weight. I stress. I basically live off of my “safe foods.”

Now that I have a child, we are in the doctor’s office for everything under the sun. My husband used to be a school teacher, so I was often afraid to touch him and his “school germs” when he got home. I would pester him about how many kids were sent to the nurse, how many kids he had missing in class, and why. Now that my own child is in preschool, I am a walking ball of anxiety. I want to hibernate until spring.

My biggest challenge when the weather gets colder is — a lot of things actually. Not keeping my kid home from school to avoid the risk of germs. Going to the grocery store, where someone who threw up a few days ago likely touched something I touched. Not washing my hands until they bleed. Avoiding doctors’ offices. Actually eating so my immune system stays healthy even though I am petrified I will be sick. Eating food prepared by others. Not running away when somebody says they feel ill — or asking them a million questions about what is wrong. Trying not to freak out about my 72-hour rule if I do come in contact with someone who had the stomach virus. This makes me count down the hours from exposure, over-thinking each feeling I have in my stomach, limiting food, and extreme cleaning of myself and my household.

So here are some tips from one emetophobic person:

Please, if you have the symptoms of norovirus (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea) please stay homeThis virus is fast-moving, and it can affect anybody. Do not make that potluck dinner you signed up for if you’ve been experiencing symptoms in the last 72 hours. Do not send your child to school/games/practice if he or she has been ill. In all honesty, don’t do this just for people with emetophobia, but for everybody. No one wants this virus. It sucks big time. So you can spare everybody by parking your butt at home to rest and keeping your fluids up.

I hate the cold…

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: September 23, 2016
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