It’s winter. We’ve been in contact with lots of people who have had some pretty nasty bugs in the past few months – the 24 hour long vomit-fest that is the norovirus, chicken pox, and the run of the mill colds and flus. Thankfully (insert grateful knock on wood here) we’ve avoided most of it, probably because we had been staying home so much instead of going out to playgroups. But now we’ve started attending a regular playgroup and the question arises – how sick is too sick to play with other kids?
We were exposed to chicken pox about two months ago, and while I understand that chicken pox is a fairly mild childhood illness for most kids, I know a few can have serious complications. So when we were in the 10 day long “potentially contagious” period, I avoided playing in close, face-to-face situations unless I knew that the people we were playing with were ok with being exposed. In the end, we didn’t get the pox and my overly concerned precautions were for naught. We could have been going out to play for those 10 days and wouldn’t have infected anyone.
But I also know that not everybody has the luxury of being able to do this. Sometimes you’ve got to get out of the house, you have to go to work, your kid has to go to daycare, whatever. As homeschoolers we have the ability to choose to go out or not. I also made a conscious choice not to vaccinate my kids for chicken pox. These choices bring with them a greater feeling of responsibility – if I choose to go out with a sick or potentially contagious child when we could easily have chosen to stay home or vaccinate against that illness, I’m very much aware of the fact that I could be responsible for spreading the illness to others. Parents who can’t take any more sick days off work and bring their sneezing kid to daycare may feel absolved of that responsibility because it’s not as easy for them to stay home, and their responsibility to show up for work and provide for their family is greater than the responsibility to prevent a cold from spreading.
Doctors like Dr Sears usually say that kids should stay home from school or daycare when they have a fever, green snot, vomiting, diarrhea, pinkeye or other highly contagious illness. The common cold ducks under most of those doctor-approved “stay home” criteria, and so it’s not uncommon to find kids with colds at playgroups and daycares.
What symptoms are on your “stay home” list? When do you say your kids are healthy enough to go out to play with others?