Good Question: What’s Your “Sick Leave” Policy for Kids?

Sick kids

This month’s Good Question comes from a friend who wondered what’s the appropriate way to handle sick kids and social and/or school situations. I realize this is probably odd timing for this particular topic. But the true spirit of a Good Question, it had me wondering, “What does everyone else do?” So even though I realize cold and flu season is (mostly) behind us, and school is winding down for the year, kids still get sick and we still have to deal with the dilemmas that surround illness all year long.

Her question specifically delves into the grey area surrounding illness. We’re not talking about the obvious: fever, vomiting, raging pink eye. I think we can all agree that when our kids are obviously ill and contagious, it’s in everyone’s best interest to hunker down. She referenced a family situation in which one set of parents were very concerned about illness of any kind, while another family was more lax. If there was an upcoming family gathering at Grandma’s, and any of the cousins had been sick recently or had runny noses, the one family wanted to err on the side of caution. Either Grandma had to call it off, or they weren’t coming if the recovering kids were going to be there. It was beginning to cause strife in the family. Was one party over-reacting to potential germs? Or was the other party under-reacting, and selfishly putting other kids at risk for a nasty bug? And whose side was poor Grandma supposed to be on?!

I haven’t dealt with this myself personally, but I can understand the dilemma it poses for families. Beyond social situations, I can see how parents who work full-time must wrestle with where the line is. Are the kids sick enough that they shouldn’t be in school, causing a parent to miss work? Or is it okay for kids to go to school, say, at 75% of their functioning level, or with a runny nose from a cold that just won’t go away?

This might not seem like a normal topic of conversation for The Risky Kids, but I think it touches on a subject that has everything to do with The Risky Kids. Are we living in a society that believes we have (near) complete control over the health and safety of our kids? That if we just do everything right, if we are vigilant enough, not only are we superior parents, but we can protect our children from just about any harm or discomfort?

As you can imagine, I lean to the side of being under-cautious. If my kids are obviously sick, we’re not going to school or to Grandma’s house. But if they’re fever-free, not puking, and not oozing suspect bodily fluids … and they’re up to going to school or being around other kids, I’m okay with it. And by saying I’m okay with it (and I think this is key here if you’re going to make this judgement call), that means I’m okay with you doing the same thing with your kids. Of course we take the polite and responsible precautions: we wash hands a lot, blow our noses, and keep our food and drinks to ourselves. And if for some reason we’re going to be around kids who are in a special situation, such as being immuno-compromised, then we absolutely stay away.

What do you say? Have you ever been on either end of this situation? I’d love to hear from both camps. As with most Good Questions, I’m sure there are some view points and situations I’m just not aware of. And if you have a Good Question you’d like to ask, let me know in the comments or on our Facebook page!

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Comments

  1. I feel like I run into this situation all the time. I have one sister in law who brings her snotty sick kids everywhere and one sister in law who refuses to hang out with the family if anyone has been sick lately. I fall somewhere in the middle and my philosophy sounds exactly like yours. Obviously sick, we’ll be staying home. boogers and a little cough, but now fever and acts fine, we’ll probably still do whatever. I’m sure we’ve shared germs before, but if I stayed home every time a kid has a sniffle, I’d never get out of the house, ever!
    Exception: Pink eye. I’m super susceptible to getting pink eye (me, not my kids) so I don’t want to hang out with anyone if they have it, even if they have been on antibiotics for 24 hrs. 🙂

    • Good point about never being able to leave the house (especially in the winter)! I forgot about pink eye. That and lice are probably two “issues” you probably want to honest about before traipsing over to someone else’s house!