As my kids head back to school, I must prepare for inevitable illnesses

Sick children pose additional concerns for parents with multiple sclerosis

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

by Benjamin Hofmeister |

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This morning, at an unholy hour, our family awoke to the sound of alarm bells. Well, not bells, but rather the gentle yet insistent sound of one of Alexa’s alarms. Actually, we changed the name of our bedroom device to Ziggy, so we can’t simply roll over, still half asleep, and tell Alexa to stop the alarm. Instead, we have to call the imp by its true name, which requires a certain amount of wakefulness to remember.

Why the unusually early wake-up? A new job? The first appointment of the day with the neurologist? A morning departure time for a family vacation? Unfortunately, it’s none of the above. Instead, today is the first day of school for our three boys.

Our oldest is starting middle school (that means fifth grade where we live), and I’m not sure how that happened. He turned 2 the same year I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which often seems like yesterday. He’ll be in a new building, but with the same peers, just down the road from the elementary school his brothers still attend.

That’s the only big change this year. The boys’ schedules will be a little different, but their friends and environment will remain essentially the same. I’m sure we’ll all quickly settle into a school-year routine.

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Bracing for an influx of sick children

However, as a parent with multiple sclerosis, there’s one more difference I can look forward to: the new and improved illnesses that my little petri dishes will bring home. I’m beside myself with anticipation — and that’s a good thing, because with MS, even the most common cold is enough for two.

I’ve written before about the magnifying effect that MS seems to have on illness, so I won’t harangue you with it now. What I will note is that the most common thing my children bring home is an upper respiratory infection — which is exactly what my Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) tends to make me extra susceptible to. That doesn’t really fit the definition of irony, as far as I can tell, so it isn’t cruelly ironic, but it’s still cruel.

That’s OK, though, because as the old English proverb says, “forewarned is forearmed.” I never thought I’d become one of those people who have a favorite cold medicine, yet here we are. I’m well stocked on those, especially ones with a fever reducer (antipyretic), because multiple sclerosis and increased body temperatures do not mix. In the past, I had the luxury of an “If it gets worse tomorrow, I’ll take something” approach. Now, I try to get ahead and stay ahead by relieving symptoms at the first hint of illness.

I’m going to take reasonable precautions and practice good self-care, but not at the expense of not being involved with my kids. They won’t be kids forever, and a little discomfort is a small price to pay to be a part of their lives — and for them to be a part of mine.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


John Lupoli avatar

John Lupoli

Was Diagnosed in this past February 2023.MRI showed lesions on my Frontal lobe,they think goes back to 1994. C.I.S. did not go on to develop MS for 30 years. I guess I was pretty lucky.Started on Ocrevus 2months ago.Trying to not let it define me. Every day is different for me. Staying positive and praying a lot. I'm 67years old & look forward to enjoying my 3 grandsons.

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

Thanks for reading John! Those 3 grandsons will keep you positive!


Andrea C avatar

Andrea C

This is my concern with grandchildren. The oldest begins kindergarten and the youngest will start day care for the first time, so they will both be getting exposed in new ways. I expect this to be a problem, especially with COVID still rearing it's head. I haven't been sick really since beginning treatment, so I am not sure exactly what to expect, but I am sure I will be seeing less of my grands due to illness... 😔

Benjamin Hofmeister avatar

Benjamin Hofmeister

Thanks for the comment Andrea! Self care is never selfish. Being sick isn't any fun. If my wife wasn't around to take such good care of me, I'd try even harder to avoid it. Thankfully my boys are (mostly) past the point of sitting in my lap and sneezing directly in my face.



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