Your youngest child has mild fever and you know what to expect because his friend threw up in his class this morning. A month later, your daughter wakes up with a headache and a runny nose. She says she doesn’t feel well but you already missed four days at work last month because of that gastroenteritis and you feel like you cannot call your boss again. What will you do?
Contagion and incubation
The incubation period varies widely from one virus to another. For example, gastroenteritis is contagious from the moment when the person begins to have symptoms and stops being contagious 48 hours after the symptoms disappeared, while chicken pox is contagious 48 hours before the symptoms and still is 15 days later.
If you have been in contact with a sick person who suffers from gastroenteritis, flu, cold or any other contagious disease, carefully and regularly wash your hands to minimize the risk of contracting it. If a person who suffers from gastroenteritis was sick in your house, was any surface that has been in contact with the person with bleach. That’s all you can do.
If you become sick, or if your child does, you must plan accordingly and if you have a large family, it will be quite a challenge. Usually, several members of the family will be affected and not necessarily at the same time. Therefore, you will need to deal with the fact that your children will be sick in turn and you may be too.
Even if you cannot miss a week of work every month, you cannot send children with fever to your daycare center. Some parents give medication to their children before sending them to school or daycare in order to go to work without being sent back home by a teacher. This should be avoided.
Remember that if your teacher sends you back home, it is to prevent the virus from spreading in a group of infants for whom it could be dangerous. Furthermore, a feverish child is often contagious and risks transmitting the disease to his educator and to other children, and letting this happen would be disrespectful on your part and would undermine the proper functioning of the daycare center.
Also, your sick child will most certainly have a bad day in daycare. A sick child needs rest, good care and attention.
If most employees are worried about taking care of their children, it is often because they fear to displease a boss who has other concerns. However, it would be beneficial or employers to allow their employees to stay at home through parental days, catching up on work on lunch hours or making sure that office employees have all the tools they need to work from home. That way, they would still work while taking care of their sick children (and keeping their virus at home!)
On the other hand, if an employee goes to work despite his symptoms thanks to effective medication, he will share his virus with other employees and other parents who will have to deal with these issues. These workplace outbreaks are very expensive in terms of days off and productivity.
Obviously, it is nobody’s fault if illness strikes but employers should keep in mind that an employee who does not fear to loose his job for reasons beyond his control is happier at work, has a sense of belonging and is, consequently, more productive the rest of the time.
If you are fortunate enough to be only very slightly affected by a virus or if you are only affected during the weekend, you should take your responsibilities and avoid contacts.
For example, sending a sick child to a relative’s home where there are children, inviting a cousin when the whole family just finished an episode of gastroenteritis or going to a family dinner, hoping that taking Immodium will be enough for nobody to notice that you are sick is disrespectful. When you can, get some rest! Listen to doctors, therapists and pharmacists and stay at home to take care of your children. Not only will you heal faster but you will also demonstrate empathy and solidarity.