Playdates during cold and flu season, should you play or should you go?

I feel like I’ve not left my house for an eternity this winter, and it just started. Since I have to schlep three kids, three and under out the door to drop my 3 year old off at nursery school, I just stay out until naptime (around 1:30). I love being out and about in the morning, as long as I am home for naptime. I mentioned in a previous post that my day is scheduled around the nap. I never was this way before, but believe me; I need it now more than ever. Just getting all three kids, awake, fed, dressed, brushed (teeth), packed (lunch and snacks), mitzvah note (recognition of good deed), tzedaka (a couple pennies for charity) jackets, hats, shoes, gloves, diaper bag, and sippy cups, etc. My head is spinning as I go through my mental, out the door, checklist. Oh, yeah, I forgot to get dressed, rrrrgh. Let’s not forget purse, keys, cell phone, mail, dry cleaning, library books, and money. You’re probably reading this to yourself, thinking, “why don’t you just get most of it done the night before”. The truth is, I like to just chill (blog, read, twitter, Facebook, draw) and wind down from the day. On at night. Once I put the dinner dishes in the kitchen, I’m so done. And, by the time I’m in a deep sleep, the kids are up and the day is upon us. Back to my original point, which was since I’m out of the house already, I just stay out. Even in the winter, there is no shortage of things to do. Monday and Wednesday is playgroup, Tuesday is Baby Boogie (music class for toddlers), Thursday is museum time, and Friday is flexible. Unfortunately, I’ve had to go right back home after the drop off at nursery, as these activities have been on hold since a wave colds, stomach viruses, and ear infections have invaded our homes. In fact, I’ve been to the pediatrician’s office so many times I’ve lost count already (he hasn’t, co-pay, chaching). As parents, we do our best to keep our kids happy and healthy. Will these weeks without going to our regularly scheduled programs affect our babies? A wise woman, my mother, told me that during the winter she rarely left the house when we were kids. If we have to stay home in the 21st Century, we can be in more than one place thanks to social networks (Facebook, Twitter, linkedin, etc.) Some of us even have beyond basic cable and can watch movies and mini-series galore. And, there are some of us who have neither internet nor cable and rely on DVDs, CDs, and VCRs. And, there are some (G-d Bless) that are able to draw with one child, hold the baby, and whip up some dinner (you know who you are).

As I was googling about this topic not only did I not realize that it was way past my bedtime, I came across the following link to an article written by Frank Barnhill M.D., http://www.drhuggiebear.com/information/whentokeepyoursickchild.htm, in which he included the following guidelines as to when a child should and should not leave the home due to illness. I have never read so much about germs in my entire life, and it can be pretty scary when a toddler or 10-month old can’t tell you what is wrong with them. I think you’ll find this helpful as well.

Medical reports clearly state that children should not be kept home from school for mild respiratory illnesses such as head colds without fever or a productive cough. However, you should use the following “guidelines” to judge the difference between mild and more severe illnesses.
You should not send your child to school if he or she:

Has a fever above 100.4 degrees orally or 99.4 degrees rectally (please note that skin and ear digital thermometers are very unreliable!)
Is irritable, cries constantly, or seems very sleepy or difficult to awaken
Is hard to keep awake and refuses to eat normally
Has difficulty breathing or seems to be breathing more rapidly than usual
Had diarrhea in the past twelve hours that would run out of a diaper, has a foul infected type odor, or would be so difficult to control that your child could not make it to the toilet without soiling clothing or messing up the bathroom or classroom
Has vomited two or more times in the past 24 hours or once in the past eight hours
Complains of constant stomach pains or walks stooped over and holding his stomach
Has sores in the mouth or is drooling because it hurts to swallow
Has a skin rash that includes pus bumps, water blisters, or oozing crusty areas (impetigo), or is associated with fever
Has pinkness or redness in the whites of eyes with crusting or drainage of yellow or green pus
If skin or whites of eyes become yellow or jaundiced
Has untreated head lice, scabies, or strep throat
Has an unexplained swollen joint, arm or leg and won’t move the arm or stand on the leg
Has a headache for more than twelve hours not relieved by Tylenol
Has a croupy or wheezy cough or coughs up a lot of green or yellow phlegm
Has a change in behavior or doesn’t act “normal”

Now that we know what to look for before we bring our kids out to play with other children, how can we protect them better? Once again, I was googling about this topic and found the following link http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/germs-in-bedroom, very resourceful. With our children out there in a “germnasium”, there is only so much I can do to protect the entire family from what she might bring home, and I’m not talking about the projects. One thing I saw stressed repeatedly was to wash hands with soap and water for twenty seconds. Okay, but how do we dry our hands (that hand towel might not look to fresh)?. Take some of your own paper towels from home. How about baby wipes, I carry them with me all the time, could they work? In the DECS Health and Hygiene Practices in Family Daycare article, wipes were mentioned as an effective way to clean hands if soap and water were not readily available. For the entire article, http://www.decs.sa.gov.au/docs/documents/1/HealthandHygienePractices.pdf

This flu season, arm yourself with the necessary “handmunition” to combat GERMS. If you or your children still get bit by the community bug, use Dr. Barnhill’s guidelines before you confirm that play date. As my mom always says, no one can do what a mom can do for their own child. Keep them home an extra day, before you know it they’ll be all grown up and you’ll long for the time together, even when they’re not cranky and not feeling well.

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