Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Allergic Employee Tired of Glares From Co-Workers

DEAR HARRIETTE: I suffer from extreme allergies all year long, and I work at a factory. When I get into one of my sneezing or coughing spells, I can feel my co-workers cringe. I get it. Coughing and sneezing spread germs, and nobody wants to catch COVID-19. But we all take COVID tests once a week. I have never tested positive. I have allergies. Trust me -- it’s not easy to have them and have to wear a mask, which only makes it harder to breathe. But I wear it anyway, just like everybody else. How can I get my co-workers to stop glaring at me? It’s hard enough to be there when I’m not feeling well. I don’t appreciate the hostility. -- Stop Glaring

DEAR STOP GLARING: Make a sign to wear saying, “I HAVE ALLERGIES, NOT COVID.” Seriously, if allowed, you may want to do that. It indicates to people that you are not a source of germs that they need to worry about.

I can only imagine how challenging it is for you to have to deal with the daily glares. Continue to take your allergy medication. Get the vaccine whenever it comes your way -- with your doctor’s approval, since you have allergies -- and wear a sign if your supervisor allows it. It may cut back on the hostility.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I want to be better at keeping in touch with people. I used to pop by and visit folks in pre-COVID-19 days. That included people in my hometown when I went home to visit during the holidays, and people in my neighborhood or from previous jobs whenever I had some downtime. Now I’m at home all the time. When people pop into my mind, I realize that it has been a long time since we have caught up. Do you think it’s weird if I start randomly calling people I may not have talked to in a year? I don’t want to be annoying; I just want to check in. Being alone for months and months is taking a toll on me. I can only imagine that this is true for some of the people I know. -- Checking In

DEAR CHECKING IN: It is very kind and thoughtful for you to want to reconnect with people you haven’t seen or talked to in a long time. It is natural, given the limitations that we have had on personal engagement since March of last year. I would imagine that people you know and care about would appreciate you reaching out.

What I do to stay organized is to make a list of the people I care about and want to contact. By writing down the names, I commit to following through. By checking off the names, I know who I have called and who is left to reach. Get creative with your list. Think of elders, community leaders, family friends, high school friends, college buddies, former co-workers, etc. When you can, use technology to create an intimate connection by videoconferencing and even scheduling group chats. Make it fun and engaging. Your loved ones will appreciate it!

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)