Every September when the kids go back to school, so many parents who I know talk about the countdown to the first illness. It seems inevitable that kids will begin passing germs and viruses amongst themselves with the start of a new school year. My daughter is almost three years old and has been going to daycare for over three months now, and my son who is almost five did daycare for a year when he was a year old until he was almost three and then he went on to nursery school and now he’s back in daycare. So, needless to say, they get their share of exposure.
So far, since starting the new school year at their daycare center, I think we’ve gotten at least one note home each week about an illness of some sort circulating through the school. We’ve seen letters about everything from coxsackie and strep throat to head lice. My poor husband has the same reaction every time… he sighs and starts preparing himself for impending doom. So far, only my daughter has gotten sick and she came down with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. I was actually surprised she didn’t get it sooner, based on all the letters about it.
What do you do when your kids get sick? I’m very much a sit back and see type of person, which drives my husband insane. Before I realized my daughter had Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, I noticed she had a slight fever—I think it was 100.6—definitely not something that would raise any alarms, or cause me to start her on any type of fever reducer. We often have the “fever fight” at my house because my husband won’t believe me that a fever is a good thing (to a certain point). The National Institutes of Health provides a nice article on their website about the benefits of a fever, and at what point a fever can do damage. I highly recommend presenting this article to anyone who is trying to medicate a child with a mild fever.
If your child does come down with an illness now that they are back in the petrie dish of germs, then I think as parents we have a responsibility to proceed conservatively. What I mean, is that we should not go all out on trying to make our kids better. Their immune systems need to come into contact with different viruses in order to learn how to fight them. By medicating them with things like Tylenol and Advil, you are just shutting down the body’s immune response. It’s interesting because experience has shown me that my friends who are quick to medicate have the children who are sick most frequently.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many childhood illnesses are viral, not bacterial. There is really nothing that can be done for most viruses. When I called my doctor when I suspected my daughter had Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease, my physician flat out told me that the only thing they would be able to do is give me a positive diagnosis (which she had pretty much done over the phone). I am not someone who needs a positive diagnosis. I know my child is not feeling well, but I also know her body is fighting it. The last thing she wants is to be poked at and examined when she’s not feeling her best. And, if it’s a virus and just needs to take its course, then I see no reason to take my child do the doctor and risk being exposed to other illnesses when her immune system is already weakened.
The next time your kids get sick, just relax and take it as an opportunity to cuddle with them and love them. Don’t simply try to make things move along quicker by throwing medicine at them. In the long run, you will not be helping them. Their little bodies are learning how to fight diseases and the best thing you can do is keep them close and make them feel loved.