We all know that dreaded feeling when you’re meeting with someone and their children, and you can immediately tell that they or their children are ill.

When that happens to me, I mentally start preparing myself for the impending sickness that is almost certain to be passed along to my family, and then I try to manage the disappointment and fleeting rage that momentarily crosses my mind. Sure enough, later that evening I’m usually woken up in the middle of the night by a crying child, and I can tell that something is amiss based on the pathetic-sounding cry and whine. I sleepily fumble my way into to their room only to find a shaky, feverish kiddo that’s miserable and immediately my mind flashes back when I had that sick visitor or play date.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a germaphobe, and some exposure to viruses is a good thing. Exposure to some germs is a necessary evil that helps beef up the body’s immunity, allowing our bodies to more effectively fight future illnesses.  One study showcased in Science Magazine has even shown that mice exposed to millions of bacteria and organisms fared better than those mice that essentially were raised in a sterile “bubble,” because their bodies were able to more efficiently fight against illness.

However, this doesn’t mean that we should allow snotty-nosed, feverish children to run rampant and infect others, nor give up hand-washing, or vaccinations. Taking these preventative steps is important in protecting yourself, your family, and others from more dangerous illnesses and malevolent microbes. This is especially true to protect those around us who are younger or elderly and possibly unvaccinated due to age, or with immune-compromised illnesses.

Exposing a young child to more severe illnesses that can be held at bay by the good health practices listed above can lead to a much more serious effect on their health in the early years than if they catch them when they are older. Young children have smaller airways that can be adversely affected by inflammation leading to wheezing, difficulty breathing  and heavy coughing all which can lead to more severe infections and complications than the original illness. This doesn’t even include those that are at a higher risk, such as people aged 65 and older, pregnant, those (adults and children) with asthma, weakened immune systems, heart, liver, lung disease and many other risk factors.

Amber Family (1)

The author and her family

The bottom line is that my family and I don’t need your child’s germs to “help” strengthen my children’s immune system, so I ask that you please keep them to yourself, stay home and nurse your child back to health. It’s what’s best for everyone involved. At the very least, keep your bodily functions contained and teach your little ones about respiratory etiquette and proper hand-cleansing. Encourage your children (when sick AND well) to cough or sneeze into a tissue (or elbow/shoulder if no tissue available), to wash well with soap and water and to keep their hands away from their mouth, nose and eyes as much as possible.

The following is a simple guideline recommended by the CDC  on whether you should cancel your play-date or send your child to school/daycare:

  • Those with vomiting, diarrhea, and/or flu-like symptoms are encouraged to stay home whenever possible;
  • A child with a fever greater than 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit needs to stay home from school until the fever is gone for at least 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medications);
  • If vomiting has occurred more than twice in 24 hours, keep them home;
  • As for diarrhea, if your child has the runs more than 3 times a day or it’s so loose that it’s leaking out of their diaper, stay home.

Following the guidelines above not will only prevent the sickness from spreading to others, but allowing your child to stay home lets them receive the rest and recuperation they need to get back to feeling 100%.

The middle of the road is what I’m seeking for us all. When dealing with a sick child, please consider whether you’d want someone else to bring their child to your home or to their school if they were as ill as your child? A little consideration towards others and adherence to recommended guidelines goes a long way. You never know who’s life (and sanity) you may be saving by keeping your germs and sickness at home where it belongs.

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Categories: Ages + Stages, Infectious Disease + Vaccines, Newborns + Infants, Policy, Politics, + Pop Health, School-Aged Children, Toddlers + Preschoolers, Tweens + Teens