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Working parent? Sick kid requires more than tissue

  • Dad: Sick child can set off chain reaction of domestic chaos
  • Miss work to care for child, then miss more when you get sick
  • Author says doctor advised to skip the flu shot. 'Well, we never got the flu. We got everything else instead'
Working parent? Sick kid requires more than tissue

Zach Rosenberg, author

Editor's Note: Zach Rosenberg is co-founder of, a site that offers a daily shot of fatherhood news, interviews, dadvertising, and fatherly opinions on parenthood topics. He lives in Southern California with his wife and 3-year-old son. You can find him on Twitter.

Everyone’s sick. You can hear it from your cubicle. Coughs. Sneezes. Tissues blowing out. The medical smell of hand sanitizer, looming like Agent Orange over fields of paperwork. People pass by in the hallways with their hands over their coffee mugs, just in case your morning “hello” carries the plague with it.

But that’s just at work. Back at home are our sniffly kids, in foul moods, with seepage leaking out of every opening.
As a parent, you lose out doubly when cold and flu season sweeps through your town; as an adult, you can tough out the symptoms, but it’s still advised you take a day off work. But as the curator of a tiny person, you’ve got to make sure that they’re staying in operational form, while attempting to not revisit illness. It sure makes decisions tough around the house as to when exactly you and your kids are able to re-enter society without infecting others.
It all started for my family with flu shots. Doctors’ opinions on it vary from practice to practice. My wife’s doctor reminded her not to get one, as she’s got multiple sclerosis (and vaccine-type precautions that tax her already-weakened immune system are a no-no). But the doctor advised our son and me to get one. We checked with our pediatrician, who is delightfully earthy, but very level-headed about necessary measures. She gave us an alternative to the flu shot for our son, and told me to keep up on vitamins and tough it out.
Well, we never got the flu. We got everything else instead.
Last month, our household had a minor outbreak of what I could only guess was norovirus. My son threw up and had diarrhea (or as he so toddlerly referred to them: “juice poops”) for a couple of days. Then, a couple of days later, I had similar symptoms, which were thankfully gone within 48 hours. My wife dodged the bullet, though she spent the better part of two weeks bathing in rubbing alcohol to ward off the germs.
Then cold season swept through our house, starting with our son, who no doubt picked it up in preschool (and a big thanks to that preschool for their “kids play outside, rain or shine” policy). My wife and I got our own colds as well.
Now that we’re at the tail end of our illnesses, our son’s has -- of course -- transitioned into an ear infection.
The typical parent is caught in double jeopardy because we have to take time off work when our child gets sick. But then, when we get sick ourselves, we have to take more time off work. Who’s got enough sick days saved up to not burn them all in the first three months of the year? Usually, adults just go back to work, infecting everyone around them. Thanks, everyone!
My wife and I also wonder what combination of sick family members means skipping a dinner out with them. We live near both my in-laws and my two sets of parents, so we’re constantly juggling schedules to see our son’s grandparents. But we don’t know how sick is too sick to go out. We feel bad when our parents can’t see their grandson, but when our son can’t even hold himself together long enough to eat a hamburger, we know he shouldn’t be anywhere near humans.
Then there are our parents -- if they’re just getting over colds, how long do we wait to see them without the risk of infection? If they sound bad, is that reason enough to take a pass? We try to stay logical, but when a stuffy-nosed parent says “we haven’t seen you in so long,” it’s tough to be stern.
There’s nowhere to hide from the colds, flus and infections this season. Believe me, I’ve tried. My only defense has been to keep up on my multivitamins, and I’ve made sure that my son is getting his with his breakfast in the morning.
And please, if you don’t want to infect me and my family (I thank you in advance), use the general knowledge you see on the kid’s channels -- if you need to sneeze or cough, do it into your arm, not your hands. And, of course, wash your hands regularly with hot water. Otherwise, keep your face out of my cubicle if you don’t feel tip-top. I’m not doing another cycle of this until next year.

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