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An Open Letter To Parents of Small Children

I'm not really quite sure what I want to accomplish by this "open letter," other than to blow off some steam and possibly (read: highly unlikely) change a few people's minds (probably after pissing them off), but let me preface it with the following statement: My blog posts are, in general, not bitchy, judgmental or negative in nature, nor do I like to have those aforementioned adjectives be a part of my life either, so this topic has been brewing for quite some time. And I'm usually quite a nice and polite person.

Here's the topic: PARENTS: Stop knowingly bringing your sick and contagious child around mine!!!!! 

Now, I'm writing this from the standpoint of a parent of a youngin' but also as a provider (speech therapist) to many MANY young children. I'm also writing this with full acknowledgment that it may be misconstrued as rude, unthoughtful, snotty, and cocky. For that, I will only say that is not my intention, but DAMN. 

I feel like I can't so much as take my kid to daycare/nursery at church/birthday parties/WHATEVER without having hell to pay for anywhere from 24 hours to 2 weeks in the form of a resulting illness. Yes, I know. I KNOW. Kids get sick. Kids are, by definition, little germ collectors. Seriously, I looked "kid" up in the dictionary and that is what it said... (I kid).

So, I know that we sometimes don't know our little angels are shedding an "Exorcist"- style puking virus until it's too late and the whole daycare goes down with them. I myself have unknowingly taken my daughter to daycare when she was in the early stages of Hand Foot and Mouth Disease and all but two kids from the daycare got it. So, I understand accidents happen, and I'm not talking about you guys!!!

I'm talking about the parents who ignore their better conscience for WHATEVER reason (job responsibilities, selfishness, ignorance) and take their fever-ridden, rash-covered, diarrhea-having little angel around other kiddos so they can all share germs. And, yes, if you can't tell, that makes me ANGRY! 

I have heard all the excuses in the world: 

"Well, he was up all night puking, but this morning he seems to be acting just fine." 
(My response: if it hasn't been 24 hours AT LEAST symptom-free, I care not.) 

"I can't miss any more days at work, or I will get fired." 
(My response: Oh, well it's certainly ok for you to get my kid sick so I have to miss work then though, right?)

and, one of my personal favorites: 
"Well he's ok if I give him tylenol." 

.....or maybe you just don't want to deal with your snotty, poopy, crabby kid while they are sick. (Yea.... I said it.)

Side note: To those parents who think "Well kids get sick, and that's what happens when they go to daycare/the park/school/McDonald's, so it's going to happen anyways, therefore we aren't going to change our plans because Little Johnny is sick." Please don't make decisions for me. PLEASE. 

See, the problem with kids who are sick (and their healthy counterparts) is this: they don't really understand "universal precautions." They don't see any problem at all with sticking their fingers in other kid's orifices. Snot on a ball? No problem! Half-eaten goldfish on the ground? MINE! Sippy cup of unknown origin on floor? I'm THIRSTY! 

And, therefore, little Tommy who puked 13 times last night, but sure as hell is running around like a monster right now, has contaminated everyone in Sunday school class.

We can't expect our children to tell us as parents that maybe they shouldn't go to school today since they aren't feeling well. It is up to us as parents to use our noggins and rub some brain cells together. Now, contagious periods for some typical children's illnesses are super vague. I read that the Hand Foot and Mouth virus can stay in poop for MONTHS. So, sometimes that isn't very helpful. 

But there are some general precautions you can take as a parent if you care about not getting a bunch of other children sick.

- Get a doctor's note. Most pediatricians will be pretty straight up about how long your kid is contagious. 
- 24 HOURS SYMPTOM FREE- as a GENERAL rule, as in a MINIMUM. If Little Sarah had fever (not talking low-grade but over like 100-101 degrees) at 3pm today, she should probably stay home tomorrow. If Little Ashley woke up in a bunch of her own puke this morning, she should probably sit daycare out today. My personal opinion on this is that runny nose and/or mild cough need not apply to this rule. Everyone has a cold from November-March in Chicago, and virtually every little kid I come into contact with has a snotty nose at least 80% of the time. I'm talking vomit, diarrhea, fever, pink eye, etc. 
- Do look up the contagious periods for common diagnosis. I wrote up a handy blog post on this topic last time I felt the need to express myself about this, which can be found here. But if you found this blog, you can find your way to Google and find out information for yourself on whatever specific ailment. Just make sure you are going to a reliable source, like the CDC. 
- Do err on the side of caution. Please. Some of these "contagious periods" are about as clear as mud, and if the parameters are like 2-14 days or something crazy, maybe you could at least limit exposure to other kids for 7-10 days, instead of trucking the kid to so-and-so's birthday party after it's been 48 hours on the dot. 
- Wash hands frequently. Soap and water, people. The antibacterial stuff is good too if you can't access soap and water, but wash their little hands (and yours too) frequently. 

Although this letter is addressed to parents of these little cherubs, I'm also extending this notice out to volunteers, daycare providers, teachers, babysitters, WHOEVER is in the business or position to take care of several kids at once. Have an illness policy. Stick to it. More than just a sign on the Sunday school door that says "Don't drop your kid off if they are sick." Have an illness policy that everyone has to sign that clearly states what your expectation is of them when it comes to children attending. Now, more informally, say for a play date or a birthday party, be that Nazi parent. Include a statement that says please be 24-hour illness free. Confront a parent who has their rash-covered angel in the bounce house with all the other kids. I think some people think that "Oh surely parents know that." But I'm here to tell you, as a speech therapist of many children who see many many parents, they surely do NOT. 

There are many, many things that I am a pretty laid-back parent about. But when we can't even go to church without my kid getting Hand Foot and Mouth disease or a 2-week long stomach virus from HELL, it starts to rub me the wrong way. 


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