Today, I committed what I consider to be one of the cardinal sins of parenting. I sent my 5 year old son to school sick. I did not do it intentionally, or with malice, or forethought, but I did it, nonetheless, and some day I just might forgive myself. My son has Asperger’s syndrome, and he is the anxious sort. Since he is just 4 weeks into his Kindergarten year, we still have mornings when he claims to have a stomach ache to avoid going to school. This was one of those mornings, or so I thought. He seemed fine otherwise, and since he is never hungry in the morning, nothing was off there, either. So I trundled him off to school, despite the tears.
As the morning wore on, I got some body aches which lead into queasiness and fatigue and by the time I went to pick him up at noon, I knew I had made a terrible mistake. He saw me coming, and as I scooped his pale little body up, he began to cry and said, “Mommy, I really am sick, not just nervous like we thought.” He hasn’t eaten all day, and is now enjoying his first ever diarrhea experience. He also probably exposed his whole class, and several teachers, one who is newly pregnant.
As a nurse, and a mother of seven, it has always made me angry when kids are sent to school, or daycare, when they are sick. I am no germophobe, trust me. My little boy was exposed to many, many illnesses by his older siblings and the kid just never got sick. I thought he had an iron constitution until he started preschool last year, and within a months time, he had gotten three colds, and his first ear infection. Small children are cesspools of disease and the diseases that they pass around like Skittles are far more virulent than what you and I get. I do not like adults going to work sick, either, by the way.
A sick child can infect an entire classroom, and you simply have no idea who all of those kids have at home that a common cold might kill. If that sounds extreme, let me tell you about a friend of mine. When we met, we both had six kids and bonded over that. I was divorced, but she went on to have child number 7, and child number 8, boasting all of the way. Number 8 was just a newborn when one of her older kids brought home a nasty bug from school. Within a week, she has lost her baby to the illness, and her elderly mother, who lived with her family, as well. It was a horrible tragedy that rocked everyone to the core, and it still haunts me.
A healthy child who gets sick may be fine, but his baby sister, or grandmother, or immuno-suppressed parent may not fare so well. I know that most of us have to work, and that, in the current economy, that we are all struggling. But money is money, and lives are lives, so err on the side of caution when in doubt. Most schools have guidelines regarding illnesses and communicable diseases in students, Follow the guidelines which usually include the following rules of thumb.
1. Fever- A child with a fever should not attend school until fever free for 24 hours.
2. Contagious– If the child is contagious in any way, keep them home. If you are not sure if your child has something contagious, check with her doctor.
3. Feels Rotten– If your child just plain feels too crummy to get anything out of school, keep them home. This one is usually a pretty easy call, but not always. Some kids are more stoic than others, so if they seem off, ask questions to find out if they are feeling legitimately ill.
Mistakes will happen, even with the best of intentions, and the phone will ring one day, and it will be the school telling you to come get your sick child. Kids get sick fast, so a child who looks great at the breakfast table may be down for the count by lunch. Do your best, use your intuition, and do not let your own agenda cloud your judgment. That is what happened to me today and I sincerely regret it. Again, when in doubt, err on the side of caution. That is a decision that you will never regret.
Should I Keep My Child Home From School?