We’re smack in the middle of cold and flu season so it seems like an appropriate time for a frank and awkward conversation about runny noses, nasty coughs, and children who don’t cover their mouths, like, ever.
This is our second cold and flu season with a toddler. And while we’ve (knock on wood) weathered the season better than last year, I still can’t believe how often Anna gets sick. In fact I started keeping a log last August, and she’s had some type of illness every single month since then. Of course most of her illnesses are minor—a mostly clear runny nose and some coughing—but STILL.
Last winter, after Anna had pink eye, croup and the stomach bug (twice) I asked our pediatrician if she was a particularly germy kid. Did we need to do something different to keep her healthy? Our doctor said that most young children pick up an average of one illness a month (!!!) especially when they start visiting daycare or attending school. She assured me our kids need to battle all these annoying little cold bugs in order to build their immunity.
The most annoying part about children’s illnesses, in my opinion, is how the symptoms linger much longer than they do for adults. When Owen and Anna were sick last fall we went to the doctor because neither of them could stop coughing. I was convinced Owen had pneumonia. But it was just the common cold, and a doctor’s hypothesis that our kids simply have tiny airways and perhaps struggle with colds more than the average child.
So, here’s my question: when your child is sick with the common cold, how long do you wait before letting them attend Sunday School or any other playgroup/preschool setting?
The reason I ask is because I have opinions on the matter, but I always second-guess myself. A few weeks ago Owen started coughing right as I dropped him off at the church nursery. The volunteer gave me one of those looks, “Are you sure?” and I had to explain, “He’s had a cold for weeks. He’s not contagious, and he sounds much worse than he actually is.” (Please believe me! Gulp.)
When my kids are coughing at church or on the playground I’m always a little nervous other parents will think my kids are infecting their kids. But with how long it takes children’s’ symptoms to disappear, we’d be home ALL winter if we waited for the last sniffle to dry up. My general guideline is to keep them away from other children for at least the first 2-3 days of symptoms. If the symptoms are minor and improving (clear runny nose, dry cough) I will usually allow our kids to be around others.
I’ve also just accepted that any public place—church, playground, birthday party, preschool, etc.—is germy. We’re washing hands with much greater frequency this winter and giving Anna vitamins and probiotics.
What is your philosophy on keeping children quarantined? Are you surprised by how often they’re sick? If not, what’s your secret to keeping them healthy?