That’s Just Sick

Medical thermometer
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The Hare didn’t feel great all weekend. She has battled allergy symptoms for weeks. Clariton helps some, when we remember to take it regularly. So when she started becoming a little whiny and puny Sunday night, I just assumed it was aggravated allergies.

“We’ll see how you feel in the morning,” I responded to her request to stay home from school.

Her eyes did appear a little vacant and her nose was still drippy, but clear. I took her temperature. Normal.

“You aren’t sick,” I assured her, “It’s just allergies, but if you still feel bad by lunchtime, call me and I’ll come get you.”

Big sigh.

I didn’t hear from her all day, however, my head started to ache by lunchtime and then my throat felt coated with slimy mucus. Whatever she was battling, I obviously was struggling with the same thing. At 4:20 The Hare came dragging in from the bus. Her eyes bloodshot and half-shut. Her cheeks were flushed. I took her temperature again. 99.9. For a kid whose normal temperature is actually closer to 97 (not 98.6), that is a definite fever. (Not sure how to treat a fever? Check out this great website: Kids Health).

“I didn’t feel good at lunch, mommy” she whimpered,”but you said I wasn’t sick. So I stayed at school.”

Bad mommy.

I truly believe in that “24 hours without a fever” rule. There are even times that my kids might not have presented with a fever before school, but I suspect one is coming and keep them home anyway. Obviously, I didn’t call it well yesterday. It is a huge pet peeve of mine when parents knowingly send their kids to school sick. Oh sure, you’re thinking “easy for you to say since you’re a stay-at-home-mom”. Really? Why is that? I don’t have any sick days, paid or otherwise. Just because I don’t work outside the home doesn’t mean people aren’t counting on me during the day. I had made commitments today that I had to cancel. DW suggested I wait and see if she had a fever this morning before making other arrangements, but I disagree. The Hare had a fever as of 4:30pm yesterday afternoon. If the school knew, they wouldn’t want her back for at least one full school day – and only as long she was fever free for all 24 hours. As a parent, I wouldn’t want this child back in the classroom. What starts out as a cold can turn into a sinus infection or bronchitis of not treated right at the beginning. Sometimes a day in bed is the best medicine. Thus the reason The Hare is sound asleep at the moment.

I understand the dilemma a lot of families are facing. More and more moms are going back to work and fathers are having to take hourly jobs just to make ends meet. Sick days that used to be paid are now leaving huge holes in their paychecks. But unfortunately, that’s life. When I was a single mom of a pre-schooler, believe me it wasn’t easy to call in sick. Already my employer made me feel guilty for being a parent, let alone a parent with a sick child. There was always the fear in the back of my head of having my hours cut or losing my job to someone without children, someone who could be more flexible and didn’t have the constraints of runny noses and daycare. But legally employers are not allowed to put that kind of pressure on working parents, so know up front what your time-off policies entail. Do you have sick days and vacation/personal time? Are they paid or unpaid? For extended illnesses does your employer offer Family Medical Leave?

Here’s some helpful advice I found from an article written by Katy Abel (Reading, Writing, and Sneezing:Sick Kids at School)

Parent Checklist: When To Keep Your Kid Home

Some expert advice from school nurses and work/family consultants:

1. Don’t go by fever alone. A child’s temperature is lowest early in the morning; he may in fact be ill but have a normal temp right before school. Check coloring, appetite, behavior and the nature of the complaint (does she have a stomach-ache because she didn’t study for the spelling test?)

2. Have a back-up system in place (and a back-up to your back-up!)Develop a plan with friends and/or neighbors who agree to be called at the last minute to provide mild sick care coverage. Reciprocate as best you can; if an at-home mom can keep an eye on your sick kid on Tuesday, maybe you can take her kids to the movies Saturday when you’re off work.

3. Don’t argue with your spouse about who stays home (otherwise your child will think that she’s at fault for being sick.) Take the discussion into another room where your child can’t hear.

4. Be direct and pro-active with your boss using statements like, “I’m going to be at home today, but here’s my plan for finishing the report.” Or, if your presence equals productivity, say things like, “I’ve talked to Sue about swapping shifts tomorrow and she’s willing to cover for me if you give the green light.”

Believe it or not, there are also daycare specifically for sick children. Some are housed in medical centers while others are through your local daycare facilities. The cost may be higher than normal childcare or even paying a sitter in your home, so be sure to look at all of the costs. I would also weigh the difference between lost wages, lost vacation days and the out-of-pocket expense. For instance: if I am only going to make minimum wage for a few hours at work, then it doesn’t make sense to pay for a sitter that will cost more than my daily rate. I should just stay home and forfeit the pay rather than be upside down in expenses that week.

Kathy Sena at offers this suggestion for finding child-care for sick children:

Check with referral agencies
Carefinder and Child Care Aware (800-424-2246) can help you find a local preschool or child-care center. (At, I typed in my zip code and got a list of 18 nearby preschools. Not bad.) The site also encourages parents to comment on their experience with specific child-care providers. The National Child Care Information Center offers a helpful checklist of questions to ask when visiting child-care centers.

As a frequent volunteer in the schools, it is very frustrating to see so many children wiping running noses with their hands or coughing all over their desks. That is why it is also so important to talk to your children about taking precautions to reduce the risk of spreading infectious germs. Because let’s face it, even if you aren’t the one sending a sick child to school, there will be someone who will. That’s why there are 4 things I try to provide for my children at the start of school.

1. A personal supply of tissues – sometimes they just aren’t able to make it to the class tissue box. Small packages of tissues can be found in large quantities right at the grocery store. I also try and pick up fun seasonal designs throughout the year as they go on sale. The girls love having Christmas or Valentine tissues.

2. A personal supply of sanitizer wipes – I know that many of us have contributed a large container of wipes to the class supply closet but you know as well as I do that the desks don’t get wiped down until the end of the day. And with many districts having to cut down the hours of their cleaning staff, surfaces might not even get wiped down but every other day. I try and make the girls keep a travel size of sanitizer wipes in their supply boxes, that way if they change desks in the middle of the day they can wipe it down before they sit.

3. Travel size hand-sanitizer – We LOVE the rubber nooses you can get to hang travel size hand sanitizer off backpacks, lunch boxes, or zipper pulls. My girls stash a few of these all over their belongings so that they aren’t digging in the bottom of their lockers or backpacks. You can keep one in their pencil boxes as well. Obviously teaching them to wash their hands as much as possible is the best solution, but when you just can’t get to a sink these will work.

4. A water bottle – Water fountain handles are just as germ infested as the handles of bathroom doors. There is no way to know how many people have or have not washed their hands before pushing the button. Plus, too many children like to rest their mouths directly on the fountain and can pass germs that way.

Another way I arm my kids is to talk about how to avoid catching or spreading germs. Here are 5 reminders I give The Tortoise and The Hare on a regular basis:

1. Wash their hands after using the computers in the computer labs.

2. Cough into the crook of their arm, rather than their hands.

3. Use a paper towel while holding the handle of the cafeteria’s micro-wave oven. Remember the water fountain handle?

4. Don’t leave used tissues on the desk or put them in your pockets. Throw them away immediately.

5. Keep pencils, pens, and markers out of their mouths. And if they borrow these items from someone, wash their hands afterward just in case their classmate didn’t heed the same advice.

Obviously nothing is fail proof. My kids get sick even with all of their vaccines and precautions. It is inevitable but the length of time in which they are sick is greatly reduced by helping them help themselves.

And on the days they are sick? Well, we just follow plan B.



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