There are varying theories on why people are sick so much this time of year.

My parents, God rest their souls, believed, as so many of their generation, that it’s the cold temperatures that make us sick.

I can’t tell you how many times I was reprimanded for going outside without proper layering when the temperature dropped into the 40s or below. And whenever I became sick with a cold, I was told it was very likely because I had been outside without appropriate attire for the season. Or I might have been improperly dressed inside when it was cold outside. Hand to God, my dad once told me I was sick because I didn’t sleep with a shirt on.

They had philosophies about other situations that contributed to illness, such as “night air” (as opposed to the air during daylight hours) and going outside with wet hair. Going barefoot around the house was risky, too.

Today it’s more commonly believed that sickness is more common this time of year because people stay inside more due to the cold, and spread germs. (My folks would very likely take issue with this).

Whatever it is, you can’t deny sniffles and coughs are abundant right now. And unfortunately, I’m a recent victim. While I don’t mean to whine, this column is supposed to be about “what I know,” so please bear with me.

A couple of weeks ago, I felt a scratchiness in the back of my throat. It wasn’t terrible but it was enough for me to know something was probably coming on.

I’ve been down this road before, and I’ve made trips to see the doctor, only to be told I had a cold that must “run its course.” I have left the doc’s office with nothing more than instructions to drink lots of fluids and eat fruits and vegetables.

And excuse me for being gross, but sometimes I’ve been told to come back if the mucus started turning green, indicating an infection for which an antibiotic could be prescribed.

All indications were this was a cold. I gave it about five days and thought I was getting better. That was on a Friday. Over the weekend, a cough developed. On Super Bowl Sunday, I told my wife I was going to a walk-in clinic. I was probably being overly cautious, I told her, but I thought I needed to get checked out.

I’m pretty sure I saw the intake person roll her eyes when I told her I was there for “congestion,” but she managed to smile and tell me to have a seat and I would be called shortly.

When I eventually saw the doc, I described my symptoms. Using her stethoscope, she had me take deep breaths as she listened to me breathe.

“I think you have pneumonia,” she said in a matter-of-fact way. Incredulous, I asked her to listen again. She did, and she repeated her initial diagnosis.

A chest X-ray confirmed it.

She prescribed an antibiotic and gave me a mask to immediately cover my nose and mouth. She told me to cancel my Super Bowl party plans, stay away from people as much as possible (and wear the mask) and rest for at least the next three days. She said the cough would likely linger a while.

Now five days out, I’m much better, and the cough is almost gone. I don’t know if it was the power of suggestion (telling me I had pneumonia) or side-effects of the meds, but the fatigue has been the most prominent feature of the illness. I’ve been sleeping later than usual and during the day I’ve been good for about two hours at a time before I feel the need to lie down.

And even though I’m a bit of an introvert and can usually do OK alone, I’m beset with cabin fever big-time.

My wife has left for an annual gathering with old friends in Arkansas that I decided was best for me to sit out, and I could feel really sorry myself if I wanted to. Rather than that, I’m getting out of this house and I am going to have human contact, no matter what.

Still hearing my parents’ voices, I’ll make sure I’m all wrapped up since the weather has turned cold again. I’ll only venture outside during the day, with dry hair (I’m mostly bald anyway, so that’s a moot point) and I’ll wear house-shoes when I’m inside. In an abundance of caution, I might even sleep in a shirt.

Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at

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