It’s back-to-school time, folks! Which means our kids are looking to share more than just their pencils, new gadgets and time together in the coming weeks and months ahead… the walking petri dishes are fixing to share some mean, god-awful germs too. Grab the Lysol, masks, rubber gloves, diffuse the thieves essential oil and prepare to take cover — for we have entered stage 2 of the back-to-school chaos: cold and flu season.
And speaking from personal experience, it seems like we could all use a lesson or two on sick-kid etiquette.
1. Keep your sick kid(s) at home.
Before I’m attacked with the whole “not everyone can afford to keep their sick kids at home” spiel, allow me to clap back with this… not everyone can afford for you not to keep your sick kids at home, either.
I’m not wealthy; in fact, my husband and I are one couple among many labeled as the working poor. I’ve had to make dollars stretch a week when my kids had a horrible 5-day stretch of strep throat and the flu while I stayed home from work. I understand that America needs better support for working parents, and I deeply feel for those mothers and fathers who do not have friends/family to help them when it’s so desperately needed.
But folks, we must be considerate. These reasons, no matter how valid they may be to one, do not warrant exposing another to a known and contagious illness.
Because when we do this, we are essentially passing the buck. We are handing the many problems of a sick kid onto parents just as poor as you. Moms and dads who have zero sick days left at work, just like you. Caregivers who are trying to finish their college degree, Just. Like. You. It’s an echo chamber with no end.
And when this happens, not only is your child potentially giving that illness to a classmate or peer, but those germs could then spread to their family too — a family with a unique medical history you know nothing of.
“Premature babies have a weakened immune system and are more susceptible to illness,” Jessica Martin, Arizona mother of twins born prematurely at 30 weeks tells Scary Mommy. “A simple cold to a full-term baby or you or I may seem like nothing; however, to a premature baby or child with a weakened immune system it can cause complications or even be life threatening.”
I don’t care how important you are, how high up you are in your job, or how new you are to your company, your job’s status is not more important than another human’s life. And we must consider all the possibilities of what could happen — including premature or ill siblings and parents — when we choose to expose others to our child’s illnesses.
2. A doctor’s office isn’t a playdate.
Where my kids see wooden, bead mazes at the pediatrician’s office, I see a breeding ground for hand, foot and mouth disease. Where my kids see a new book in the waiting room, I see the cold or RSV diseases waiting to prey. And where my kids see a feverish kid outreaching their friendly hand to them, I see the flu-bug and raise them a huge HELL NO.
Just last week, my husband took our one-year-old twins for a well-baby checkup. And while they were in the waiting room, they were strapped in their stroller with toys and snacks from home the whole time (because nothing gets a healthy kid sicker than a well-baby checkup). But my husband came home to tell me that another child with snot hanging from their nose and scarlet-tinted cheeks kept running over to touch them.
The little boy poked my healthy kids with his germ-infested fingers before my husband asked him gently to go back to his mommy. The little boy obliged, but then kept coming back for more.
My husband described the mother to be the kind that finds great difficulty in telling her child no. Instead, she gently instructed him repetitively, “You’re sick, honey. Come back. You don’t want them to get sick, too.”
All the while, never really doing anything about her son being in my kids’ personal bubble either.
It wasn’t this sweet boy’s fault, he’s just a kid, but it be common knowledge that not every child at the doctor is already sick, and we should be considerate of other people’s kids during cold and flu season.
3. Quit “forgetting” to tell guests/babysitters that your kids are sick.
When I was little, my neighbor’s mom invited me over for a playdate while all of her daughters had the chicken pox, and I had never had them before in my life. When my mom arrived to drop me off and asked if her children all had the chicken pox (as was noticeable from the red circles covering them head-to-toe), her response was, “Yeah, but kids have to get it sometime.”
Yeah, that went over just about as well as a toot in the breeze with my mother.
Whatever contagious illness your child has contracted, it is only courteous for you to inform possible house guests and/or babysitters that your child is under the weather.
Don’t be that asshole.
4. No visiting newborns if you’ve been around sickness.
Even if you aren’t sick yourself during this cold and flu season, you shouldn’t visit newborns or those with a compromised immune system (newborns, preemie infants, the elderly, the critically ill, etc.) if you’ve been around a contagious illness within the last two weeks.
“Illnesses like the flu spread from person to person when droplets from the cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air and get into the mouth or nose of people nearby,” the CDC states. “The germs in these droplets can often also live on surfaces, such as desks or doorknobs, for 2 hours or longer and can spread when people touch these surfaces with their eyes, mouth and nose.”
The flu can take one to three days for a person to become symptomatic, but according to the Mayo Clinic, those with rotavirus (a common stomach flu) can be contagious for as long as 10 days after recovery.
5. Sickness or not, NO kissing the babies.
Ooooo! They are so cute that they make my ovaries want to explode! Who doesn’t want to kiss them?!
But how many articles need to be published about an infant dying from a family member or friend’s seemingly innocent kiss before we are finally able to comprehend the serious dangers?
Saliva is one of the easiest ways for viruses to be spread, and a kiss (I can’t believe I have to reiterate this) obviously has traces of saliva.
Besides cold and flu and the horrors of RSV, a simple kiss could spread herpes meningitis to a baby, which could be fatal. In an article published by David Kimberlin, Co-Director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama, babies diagnosed with the herpes virus in the latter stages without therapy, affecting the central nervous system and multiple organs, have a 20% survival rate.
I couldn’t agree more that we need global support for the working parent, so days home with sick kids aren’t so difficult to make happen. But until then, we cannot put other people or their children at risk for our family’s selfish sake.
What could be the run-of-the-mill aches, pains, low-grade fever and stuffy nose for you or your kid, could be fatal for another family.
And yes, that is how serious cold and flu season really is.
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