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Hosting guests when you're sick- do you do it?

Suppose you have invited guests to your home for a meal you are preparing, and the day before, you feel sick. Not going to specify symptoms, but assume it's because of some communicable disease.

Would you cancel? Carry on with lots of hand washing? Politely warn guests in advance so they can opt out?

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    1. Reschedule. Explain why and I'm sure your guests will be glad!

      1. If I am sick but overall feel fine/up for company? Call and let my guests decide. Many communicable diseases are communicable before the symptoms even show up. Others you don't want to mess with at all. Plus if they are not really close friends I might not know if they or anyone in their family have compromised immune systems.

        If I am sick and feel sick/miserable? Cancel and reschedule.

        2 Replies
        1. re: foodieX2

          I'd be pissed if I showed up to someone's house who is sick and didn't know in advance.

          1. re: Scoutmaster

            Absolutely this. For a time, I was immuno-compromised, and I would be quite unhappy if the host didn't tell me that he was ill while preparing my food. Definitely reschedule.

          1. Cancel it. Aside from being exposed to germs, I'd think it would be uncomfortable for the guests to feel like the host is going to crawl into bed, just as soon as the guests leave.

              1. Yeah, I'd cancel. I'd worry that I would make others sick, especially if I prepared the food.

                  1. Oh, pleeeeeeze cancel. I have wires in my face from some awful surgery; a common cold is guaranteed to morph into a sinus infection. Dinner is simply not worth the antibiotics and resulting pain. Please cancel and reschedule when you are well.

                    1. Thanks for the responses everyone! Just as more context, I did cancel a brunch I was hosting this weekend (just before I posted!) because I've got a head cold.

                      But it got me thinking.....I've been in a few situations where the hosts kept events on even when they had some sort of bug (in one case, GI, in most other cases, head colds.) When they are cooking, I've felt terrible not just because of my own health risk, but because they are not resting and getting better.

                      In one case, where the host was sick but still offered the invitation to come, it almost seemed like she was trying to see who still 'cared enough about her' to attend.....got an odd passive-aggressive vibe, but maybe I read it wrong or didn't connect with her sense of humor.

                      A bit of a tangent, but in cases where they are hosting at a restaurant or a catered event, I'd rather they be focused on recovering as well (but I understand that there may be mitigating factors like deposits put down, etc.)

                      My background is in public health and even if it wasn't, it seems (as many of you are confirming) that it's an acceptable norm to cancel an event when sick....thank goodness. :)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: 4Snisl

                        i've gone ahead with the party only when my healthy girlfriends were willing to step in and substitute for me as the cooks/ hostess(s).

                        i stay upstairs quarantined in my bedroom,
                        at the party in spirit only.
                        just because the event may need to go on, doesn't mean that i need to infect every person invited.. . . .

                      2. If I was a guest, my preference would be that you cancelled. That said, I'm amazed at how many folks just don't care.

                        Over the years I can think of a number of occasions where I've called family or very close friends to give them the choice and they chose to come anyway. If I have a cold I'm cooking anyway so it doesn't matter to me if folks come but if the tables were turned, I wouldn't have wanted to go to their homes for fear of getting ill.

                        1. I was scheduled to host (and cook for) a baby shower (not in my home) a few weeks ago and about a week before, caught a really bad cold. Got antibiotics and then was worse 3 days before the party. I called the mother of the expectant mother and told her I couldn't do any cooking and probably wouldn't be able to come at all. Got a different RX about 2 days before the party but still had a very bad cough. I was feeling better the morning of the shower but knew I still shouldn't go. I was really bummed, had spent a lot of time and $$ organizing etc but it was the wise thing to do. I wouldn't forgive myself if anyone got sick.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: alwayshungrygal

                            Especially with an expectant mother in the crowd. Major no-no. Lots of things you can't do with them, like making things with homemade mayonnaise …

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              Agreed. There was a list of what she couldn't eat so I vetted the menu with her beforehand. It would have been a really nice menu, but I literally couldn't--then wouldn't when I was feeling better--cook a thing. I'd never take a chance and risk someone's health that way.

                            2. re: alwayshungrygal

                              You were honoring the guest of honor the best way you knew how.... :)

                              1. re: 4Snisl

                                That's a very kind way of looking at it, thanks!

                            3. No question about it. I would cancel or reschedule.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: BlueMagic

                                Ditto - I wouldn't enjoy the time and I'd be worried about getting others sick.

                              2. Anything but cancelling should be considered an antisocial act.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: law_doc89

                                  That's funny because my mom would think canceling would antisocial and that the show must go on at all costs. I'm generally the one canceling in such situations.

                                2. It all depends :) If a large party, with honorees, I'd secure a few friends to cover hosting duties, and arrange for some help with the food preparation. Besides, for a large party, I'd have been preparing for days, not just the day before.
                                  For a small party, say fewer than 10? I would reschedule for sure, and for a larger group, would offer to reschedule.

                                  1. I suppose there would be times where you can't cancel (Christmas? Event with out of towners who already bought plane tickets, etc) so I think proper hygiene and use of medications to halt congestion, coughing, and snot would help.

                                    18 Replies
                                    1. re: youareabunny

                                      Good point- sometimes there are other factors (social, financial,etc.) and the show must go on.....

                                      1. re: youareabunny

                                        I thought the same thing until a few years ago.

                                        Christmas Day, I woke up with the sniffles and a sore throat, but it was Christmas, I wasn't hosting, and it was just a cold. Take an aspirin and deal.

                                        So I thought.

                                        No, it was a full-bore case of the flu, knocked me on my butt for most of a week and I managed to pass it to my folks, and even worse, to my grandparents, who were in their 80s at the time.

                                        I nearly put them in the hospital -- and carried a pretty full load of guilt until they were back on their feet.

                                        Never again.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          That's pretty nutty. I've been around people with flus and not caught anything, and vice versa.

                                          1. re: youareabunny

                                            No, that's not pretty nutty -- that's how communicable diseases work, and that year, it was a particularly virulent and nasty strain.

                                            The show absolutely must not go on if it could threaten someone's life -- the very young, the very old, immune-compromised folks, the pregnant....and I'm a little ashamed that I had to learn that the hard way.

                                            At the very least, why in the world would you risk having people you care about feeling like hell because you couldn't disrupt the plans?

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              Family from 8 hours up north drove down to the house for 1 week this past Christmas. I was sick and I suppose I could've minimized risk by sticking myself in a hotel room, but I didn't.

                                              No one got sick out of 20 people. While I did not have the flu, all the coughs, phlegm etc lead me to believe that what I had was communicable.

                                            2. re: youareabunny

                                              <That's pretty nutty>

                                              How do you figure it's 'nutty'? Who in their right mind, unless it's your child, would anyone *not* care about being around someone with the flu? This year a large percentage of people who'd been immunized still came down with it. Stay the hell away from me if you have the flu, cold or sniffles and I'll do the same.

                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                <<Stay the hell away from me if you have the flu, cold or sniffles and I'll do the same.>>

                                                I get that and feel the same but I also realize that my exposure more often than not is going to be unintentional.

                                                Case in point-I am down for the count right now. I was perfectly healthy until I flew home from vacation. Could I have been exposed at one of the many parks I visited? Could it have been the person had my seat on the plan earlier? The flight attendant? Someone at baggage claim? I did not see one obviously sick person my whole trip. Don't remember a single cough of sniffle but here I am, a snotty nosed, hacking feverish person. According to my doctor I was contagious before I had a single symptom-I asked because I have a young son.

                                                Some times sickness just happens and not because of ignorant, stupid, careless people. How many people have gone to pharmacy to pick up cold medicine thinking it was just that-a cold which really ended being the flu? They touched packages, counters, exposed sales associates.

                                                How many well meaning co workers came to work with systems full of cold ease/emergeneC only to really have pneumonia?

                                                How many cases of food poisoning really ended up as rotovirus?

                                                Bottom line is that sickness happens. We all can do what we can, canceling plans being one of them, but that isn't necessarily going to protect you.

                                                1. re: foodieX2

                                                  You're right.

                                                  What I'm referring to is the person who comes to a party or meets for lunch and then, after a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek, announces they have the flu or cold and 'I just didn't want to cancel because I'm feeling okay & I really wanted to see you'.

                                                  My immune system has proved to be good but I really would rather not test it unless absolutely necessary.

                                                  I hope you feel better. It's just infuriating to vacation and then come home, after resting and relaxing, only to get sick....especially with a child.

                                                2. re: latindancer

                                                  Nutty in the fact that 4 ppl all got sick. I wasn't aware the thread only focused on the flu.

                                                  1. re: youareabunny

                                                    The flu is a serious matter and causes thousands of deaths per year, as many as 1/2 million per year world wide. Many lesser virus infections are called "flu," but they are not. Anyone knowingly exposing others to the flu is somewhat heinous.

                                                    1. re: law_doc89

                                                      I'll extend that to a nasty cold, as well -- because you just don't know how someone else's immune system will handle something.

                                                      No one will ever be more angry at you for canceling dinner/party/etc than they will be if they end up losing a week of work because you DIDN'T cancel.

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        I think you can arm yourself and your guests with information and allow them to make their own conclusions.

                                                        In a perfect world I could take as many sick days off work and school as I need to, send the servant out to do my errands when I'm sick, bite the $300 cancellation/change fee on a plane ticket, etc. Sometimes you can't cancel.

                                                        1. re: youareabunny

                                                          But if you leave it to your guests, you shift the responsibility for your guests' wellbeing **while in your house** to them, and putting them in the uncomfortable position of saying, in effect, that your illness is indeed a problem and they don't want to socialize with you if you're ill.

                                                          Why would you put them in that position?

                                                          Just phone/text/email and say you're ill, and you don't want to spread it around. Then you're being the martyr, and they'll thank you for it.

                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                            I've always ended up sending flowers or a small gift or something to show my appreciation for the host canceling.
                                                            It's just such a common sense sign of courtesy on their part and I love them for it.

                                              2. re: sunshine842

                                                So sorry for your experience sunshine. I understand the guilt. My eldest's 2nd birthday coincided with his first experience of "stomach flu" and I didn't think (young and dumb) to tell the grandparents to wait to come for a visit. Well, armed troops and barbed wire couldn't have kept them away in any case (Our first grandchild! Birthday! Must go celebrate now!), but I felt guilt for a long time after since, of course, everyone got a dose of my kid's *ick.* My parents were beyond understanding, which I appreciated, but I felt a bit like a Typhoid Mary.

                                                1. re: cayjohan

                                                  Intestinal ailments in toddlers are unbelievably virulent -- as we all seem to have to find out the hard way. It wasn't quite as bad for us- my oldest was one of the first to receive the rotavirus vaccines (the one that was recalled, so we had lots of interviews over the years to document how things turned out in kids that DIDN'T have bad reactions) -- but it meant that he had one bout of rota before he got the vaccines, but then didn't have another one until he was about 6.

                                              3. re: youareabunny

                                                Guests arriving by commercial air should spend a few days quarantined in a hotel before their visit.

                                              4. Is it only my parents and I feel up to cooking anyway? If so I probably couldn't get out of it because you have to be literally on deaths door or at the hospital to get out of a function according to her.

                                                Anyone else I'd be canceling in a heartbeat. I hate getting sick and it's rare for me to entertain or even go out if I'm sick. Sadly my mom shows up sick all the freaking time, she just doesn't care and it drives me crazy.

                                                1. Count me in on the cancel. All you need is one, I attended to have fun and left with a 3 week flu, to understand it's not worth carrying on if you aren't well. I've wind up sick and bedridden because family (let alone friends or coworkers) didn't think about changing the date, the location or calling a caterer. All the kissing & hugging hello & goodbye...ugh!!! It's not worth it.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    A hearty *Absolutely!* to this. A number of years ago, a dinner where the hosts chose to ignore/not disclose that their entire family was horribly sick with rotavirus and just carried on with the event (although I personally cannot imagine what amazing fortitude that must have taken; perhaps I owe them a hat-tip for being so stalwart). This led to a ripple effect that still makes me twitch and shudder with the memory. My entire family, along with my out of town houseguests were all laid low for several days. 6 people+ rotavirus+one bathroom= a special sort of hell. The source hosts seemed to find it somehow amusing, but one of my houseguests who needed hospitalization for dehydration most assuredly did not. Neither did I, nursing a household of sick people while sick myself. All because someone did not want to cancel and *inconvenience* their guests. I personally slot such a decision into the Bad Host category.

                                                    As a person with many and severe allergies to antibiotics, I reserve a special internal back burner for my simmering resentment of folks who will take a "show must go on" attitude with entertaining when they themselves are ill. It does matter to many of us, and cooking and entertaining people when one is ill is a major etiquette faux pas in my book.

                                                    I just recently had to cancel a dinner in my home because of a bad bout with influenza and bronchitis. One of my invitees had the temerity to negotiate on the cancellation with me, stating that "We're all sick, too, so it doesn't matter!" Um...no.

                                                    1. re: cayjohan

                                                      I'd have had to bite my tongue to keep from blurting something about yeah, but I feel like dogshit and I just can't be bothered to cook for you when you don't give a damn how I feel.

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        My teeth and tongue were close personal friends on that one.

                                                        And important to me, in my self-centered little universe of sickness was this: another's *ick* might not be my *ick*, and why when the immune system is already battered would I invite a new illness to sit down and take a seat at an already set table?

                                                        I get a bit testy about this issue, I realize, but have seen too many instances where "Politeness" and "Hospitality" means some communicable illness running roughshod through a gathering. There are 365 days in a year, and most of us aren't sick for all of them; canceling and rescheduling is really the only truly polite thing to do.

                                                      2. re: cayjohan

                                                        Oh. my. god.
                                                        I'm forever firm on cancellations when it's a doctor you should be calling not guests!!

                                                    2. If it's communicable, the ONLY thing you should do is cancel. With a note that you'll reschedule when you can.