sick kid ettiquette

A few years back, before we had BG, we had a friend with a toddler, and we would watch said toddler from time to time. Once, I was scheduled to watch her daughter, and I came over to find that her child was very, very sick, but only after my friend left! Of course, anyone who has cared for a baby or toddler with a cold knows that it’s virtually impossible to avoid coming into contact with the illness, between the nose-wiping, the child sneezing or coughing on you, the child wiping snot all over you, it’s just not possible. So of course, I got sick. And I was furious with this friend. I was teaching at the time. I had to miss nearly a week of classes, sacrifice pay, and get terribly behind all because my friend wanted to go to some event.

Nearly every time our family falls ill, we can trace it back to small children. I realize that we may very well be contracting these illnesses at the grocery store or the gas pump or the letter carrier for that matter, but it always seems small children are at fault.

But it’s not really the children who are at fault, is it?

 We have a member of our family who brings her child to family functions coughing and sniffling and snotting it up all over the place and then lies to us, telling us her child has allergies. A few days later, our family is laid flat by some suspiciously similar “allergies.” I know this family member doesn’t want to miss out, that she doesn’t want her child’s seemingly mild illness to get in the way of her plans, but honestly, I wish she would just keep her at home.

This is not uncommon though, is it? I know we all have to take our kids out in public when they’re sick from time to time. I had to do it this week to get medication for my wife because she was too ill to take care of our son. So we went out quickly. I kept him close to me in the cart, covered his mouth each time he coughed, and I wiped down our cart with antibacterial wipes following our trip. I know I wasn’t able to eliminate all germs he spread, but bringing him with me was unavoidable.

But when it is avoidable, why do people do this? Why won’t people keep their sick kids–or for that matter, their sick selves–at home? Why do they need to share their latest contagions by letting their kids drool all over playground equipment or library books? Why?

I don’t think I need those questions answered, but I would be interested in knowing what you think. What should sick child ettiquette be? Would you lie about your child’s health if it meant you were able to attend an important event? What do you do when your kid is sick and you can’t just stay home?




Filed under parenting, sick

9 responses to “sick kid ettiquette

  1. judecorp

    I bring my kid places with a cold but never a fever or other disease. To me, a cold is unavoidable and in heavy sick season, there is a perpetual cold at preschool. I don’t care if people bring kids with colds to my house.

  2. If I kept my child home for the entire cold to pass we’d never leave the house all winter long! A cough always seems to linger for a couple of weeks and while I don’t take him out if he has a fever or for 24 hrs after he’s fever free that’s it. He comes to work with me 2 days a week and I care for a 6 and 3 yr old so the 3 of them pretty much pass the germs around – but if i don’t go to work I don’t get paid and they are without a sitter so I definitely don’t let a cold stop us.

  3. Ainsley

    Colds are absolutely inevitable (and seem almost permanent) with a toddler in daycare. Last winter, it seemed like he had a cold from December through April. As long as Owen isn’t feverish or coughing, we go about our daily routines.

    I do understand what you’re saying, and I completely agree for really sick children! We would never lie about his illness to attend an event….that doesn’t do anyone any good.

  4. We also don’t keep him confined for a simple cold (although we’ll try to keep him away from non-daycare kids), but yes for anything worse than that (because that wouldn’t be fair to him either!) It’s completely inevitable that he won’t get sick every time a new round moves through daycare. I’m confused about all this “building up their immune systems” though, as they say. After over 30 years of my own immune system building up, I still usually get sick from the kid germs, too!

  5. c storm

    Certainly, it is not fair to be dishonest about your child’s state of health. That said, the average toddler is going to get eight to ten colds a year. And the average toddler’s parents cannot keep the child home for eight to ten weeks per year: especially single parents. I don’t keep mine home unless she has a fever or is vomiting and for 24 hours after that. The other thing is that I sort of want her to get the colds and bugs now, before she begins school, if she does (we may home school…we home school or public school depending on the child and her wishes). It’s not as if kids are going to get fewer illnesses if they’re not taken out and about: their immune systems have to get them like every one elses’ do. It’s just that they’re going to get all those bugs and colds in kindergarten, when many kids will be shrugging them off because they’ve already had them.

    That said, my pet peeve is parents who let their kids run around with crusty, green boogers on their faces. Warm up a wash cloth and wipe it off, already…seeing that affects how I feel about your child, even if that does make me a horrible person.

  6. I have been contemplating this question recently. As a child, my mother sent us to school, choir, soccer practice, wherever – if we were healthy or not. I even remember being sent to school with antibiotics in a tiny Tupperware cup, and was told to lie that is was koolaid if questioned. This week, since I got lazy about washing my hands at work and caught a cold from the kiddos, I had to put my money where my mouth is, and chose to stay home for a day and feel better instead of sticking it out at work. I admit, this decision was partly made on the basis that Frannie is still nursing, and I can’t take my usual array of cold and sinus products to prop me up for the duration. That day of rest felt so good, though, that I am ditching my upbringing like a soggy Kleenex. It always makes me mad when kids are sent to school sick, because only takes one sick kid coming through my room to pass it to half of the school, since they’re all sharing drums, bells, and shakers. I know that my partner and I are lucky to have paid sick days through our work, and I really feel that ought to be an option for everyone-we have to teach our kids to consider the health of others, not just themselves.

    • reproducinggenius

      I think that being a teacher colors my view of this issue too. I teach college students who come to school with the most horrific contagious illnesses, and they get everyone who comes in contact with anything they touch sick. I have never been more ill more frequently than when I have taught first-year students who live in dorms. Ugh.

  7. Yes it gets old. I think parents use school as daycare at times to simply “get them out of my hair”. When young children in particular are sick and they come to school we all pay the price. My kids are sick much any more however. The vitamin supplement I give them boosts their immune system by 28% which is really all it takes I guess.

  8. Clarice

    I hear ya with this one. I understand that sometimes colds are unavoidable, we are very careful when we go out in public to wash our hands often or at least use hand sanitizer. We stay home when we are sick, we do not attend church, we don’t send our kids to school when they are sick, we don’t go to events or gatherings when we are contagious. We do not want to spread our germs because we understand how miserable it is to be sick, for it to spread through our family, causing us to miss out on things we would rather be doing or need to do such as go to work or school. It sucks. So WHY in the world would anyone so very selfishly bring their obviously sick child(ren) over to a healthy houshold?! I don’t care if it’s freaking Super Bowl. Your child is sneezing and coughing and and snotting all over the house and all of the toys that my kids are also playing with! Oh, great, now I see the next day on facebook that said sick child has a high fever and is so ill that he cannot even get out of bed. Great, thanks so much. You just had to come. We have had this problem with this family from the time they started having kids. It’s just the way it is when you have kids and they get sick. You have to sometimes stay home and make sacrifices to not only take care of them until they are well, but make the sacrifice to miss out so that others do not have to become sick as well. It’s just the right thing to do. I am so pissed right now, and my kids aren’t even sick yet, but surely it won’t be long now. And can I mention that we have an incredibly important and busy weekend planned. A wedding reception, Valentines dinner at church, and seeing my brother who just got married and is home with his new bride for a visit before they fly back to Taiwan. Do not want to miss any of it, but if my kids are sick, I AM WILLING TO STAY HOME WITH THEM. Rant over.

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