Too Sick to Attend Day Care? How to Tell
It’s seven o’clock in the morning and family rush hour begins. The teakettle is whistling, Working and Parenting – Part Four Articles the toaster’s popping, and the traffic report is the usual bad news. Enter a whine that will turn your already overbooked day upside down. By reflex you lay hands on your baby’s head. “On, no, a fever!” To day care or not to day care, that is the question. Suddenly you realize that it is not so easy to change jobs at the touch of a forehead.
How sick is sick enough to miss day care? This decision affects three parties: Does your baby feel too sick to attend day care? Is she contagious to the other children? How convenient is it for you to take a day off from work? Here are some practical guidelines on what germs are the most catchy.
Here is one set of germs that all doctors agree are very contagious. Frequent, watery, mucousy, and sometimes bloody diarrhea is a sure indication to stay home, both for your baby’s sake and to prevent an outbreak in the center. Add vomiting — parents call this a double ender — and your baby is certainly too weak and too upset to leave home. As soon as the vomiting is over, the stools are no long explosive and watery, and your baby feels better, she may return to day care. Be prepared for the bowel movements to remain loose and frequent for weeks, as the intestines are notoriously slow to recover. During this convalescent state of diarrhea, your baby is not contagious.
Colds and Fevers
While diarrhea illnesses merit quarantine, respiratory and febrile illnesses are a different bag of germs. Most cold germs do not threaten an outbreak in the day-care center as much as diarrhea germs do. In fact, studies in school-age children have shown that excluding children from school does not diminish the spread of colds; admitting kids with colds to school does not increase their spread (the contagious period so variable, and babies are most contagious a day or two before they act sick). When you send your two-year-old to day care with a cold, this is one time to teach her not to share. Show her how to cover her nose and mouth with a tissue when she sneezes or coughs and to turn her head away from others. “Two-year-olds may be able to learn this sanitation gesture but are likely to forget. If your baby has a fever (persistent temperature of at least 101 degrees F/38.3 degrees C) it is prudent to keep her out of day care until you ask your doctor whether she is contagious.
Sore throats, especially those associated with fever and throats’ sores (for example, hand, foot, and mouth disease, are very contagious and are a red light for day-care attendance until the fever and the throat sores are gone — usually around five days.