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Germapalooza: My Daycare Dilemma

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This place is making my daughter sick ... literally!

baby sick in bed

Vivian Manning-Schaffel: When our sitter informed us she was leaving, I was psyched to get my daughter into our son's old daycare. Once she hit the 18-month mark, she'd grown desperate to play with someone her size -- her boring ol' toys just weren't cutting it anymore. Our son thrived there, so we thought she would too. And she is, except for one major monkey wrench: She's only been there a month and has been out sick five days.

Mind you, she goes three days a week. So she's been out sick for a week and a half out of four. Fevers, snot, phlegm, puke -- you name it and I've bathed in it. And I've paid for it, to boot. I thought her kindergarten-aged brother had broken her in by carrying every possible germ into our home, but noooooo ... she's got a whole new petri dish to swim in. And lately, the kid's seen her pediatrician more than her grandparents.

So is it normal for a toddler to experience a few months of misery and illness when starting daycare or preschool, or is it just her (and my) crap luck? What's a parent to do? Quit their job?

Some doctors say yes. Give it up. Stay home. Your kids are only young once. But unfortunately, these doctors aren't going to pay my bills.

Other pediatricians simply say it's tough, but to roll with it because she's building up her immune system, and I dare say it's kind of true. My son also endured this rite of passage, otherwise known as snoogery hell. And now that he's in kindergarten, he's become a sturdy little fellow.

Momlogic pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson tells me:

Your experience with starting daycare is pretty typical. But the truth is, if it wasn't happening now, it would happen in another year or two when she starts preschool. We build our immunity when we are exposed to infections -- the kids who are never exposed during their infant or toddler years (the ones who don't go to daycare or even preschool) don't get to skip
ever being sick, they just face it when they enter kindergarten.

There are some unique downsides to the onslaught of illnesses that accompany the beginning of daycare: when kids are young, it might take a couple more days to kick a particular illness, or they may get a secondary infection (like an ear infection) on the heels of a regular common cold. This is less likely in a 5-year-old than a 1-year-old. Also, kids are often in daycare
because their parents need the help. This means that when the kids are sick and not able to attend daycare, the parents are often stuck missing work. It adds an extra layer of stress for the entire family.

On the upside, though, kids in daycare typically thrive socially. Many -- though certainly not all -- reach developmental milestones earlier than their stay-at-home peers because they learn how to communicate, share, eat, and play with others. In my opinion, there are huge upsides to daycare.

So in the end, you're right: there's not much to do. Yes, check in with your pediatrician when necessary. And in the meantime, do lots of handwashing, provide a healthy well-balanced diet, put your kids to bed early to maximize their restorative sleep, and my secret trick is to head straight from daycare into the bathtub when you get home.

I plan to do all of the above, and maybe even burn some sage. After a month and a half of this non-stop Germapalooza, I'll try anything to make this immune system building stop!

next: Guilty Friday: You Sleep WHERE?
6 comments so far | Post a comment now
Michelle June 12, 2009, 3:26 PM

I’ve so been there, done that! As a mom with kids in daycare, yes, for awhile, they are sick ALL THE TIME! As a preschool teacher, the doc is right, the kids who haven’t been swimming in the petri dish yet, miss a ton of preschool in my class.

I will say some kids fair better than others. My daughter used to get sick for a week at a time, my son typically gets over the bug with in a couple of days.

I would love to be able to afford in-home care, but since that isn’t really an option, I am right there with you!!

Diana June 12, 2009, 4:36 PM

I’ve been burned by this as a single mom who worked full time — until recently laid off to half-time. I can’t help but wonder if all the work I missed this Spring made me a target. Dad’s not in the picture. Grandparents got seriously ill last year after watching my kid — I don’t recommend that. I’ve been trying to determine if there’s a practical way to provide a service for sick kids (and their parents). The down sides to get around: the care provider(s) should have some type of medical background, no one can replace Mom for a sick kid, no one wants to bring the bugs home to their own family, there’s a limit to how many kids can be cared for in one place in one day and not pass germs to each other, and most importantly — it can’t be more expensive than staying home from work. Has anyone seen this work in their community?

Jamie June 12, 2009, 5:21 PM

As a Daycare teacher, I can assure you that we stay just as sick as the children. We are NOT allowed to you hand sanitizer and cant bring in Clorox wipes. The only thing they allow us to use is a 25:75 bleach water mixture.

Anonymous June 13, 2009, 12:20 PM

It gets worse when they get into kindergarten.

Katie Powalski November 6, 2009, 8:00 AM

Thanks Vivian. What your peditrician says makes perfect sense. It’s just so hard to see them sick!

Brenda Bathurst September 7, 2010, 11:29 PM

I got your web link, thanks. It seems to be down or not working. Does anyone have a backup link or mirror? Cool that would help out.

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