Working and Parenting - Part Four
This article covers: Too Sick to Attend Day Care? How to Tell, Who Plays Nurse When Baby Is Sick? and Sick-leave benefits. I hope you found all the previous parts to this article and can now put all this information together and enjoy the benefits of the information provided.
Too Sick to Attend Day Care? How to Tell
It's seven o'clock in the morning and family rush hour begins. The teakettle is whistling, the toaster's popping, and the traffic report is the usual bad news. Enter a whine that will turn your already overbooked day upside down. By reflex you lay hands on your baby's head. "On, no, a fever!" To day care or not to day care, that is the question. Suddenly you realize that it is not so easy to change jobs at the touch of a forehead.
How sick is sick enough to miss day care? This decision affects three parties: Does your baby feel too sick to attend day care? Is she contagious to the other children? How convenient is it for you to take a day off from work? Here are some practical guidelines on what germs are the most catchy.
Colds and Fevers
When to Stay Home with a Cold
Before you jump to change your whole day, here's a nasal secretions tip: The goop from the nose is always thicker upon awakening in the morning, since it has had a chance to stagnate during the night. To help assess the situation, squirt a few saline nose drops into each of your baby's stuff nostrils and encourage a gentle nose blow, or remove the secretions with a nasal aspirator. If the remaining secretions are clear and your baby breathes better, you can breathe easier, and it's off to day care.
Some runny eyes are due to conjunctivitis (often called pinkeye), a contagious infection that will send day-care providers rushing to make a come-get-your-baby call. If the eyes are bloodshot in addition to draining, this is contagious pinkeye, which is quickly treated and made noncontagious by an antibiotic eye ointment or drops. The baby may attend day care as long as treatment has begun. If the eyes are not bloodshot, this is seldom contagious conjunctivitis, and your child may still attend day care.
Colds versus Allergies
Of course, any cough accompanied by fever, chills, and coughing up of green or yellow mucus warrants medical attention and absence from day care. Your baby can return to day care then the fever subsides and she feels better (usually in a few days), though the cough itself may linger for a week or two.
If you're uncertain about your baby's spots, circle a few with a felt-tipped pen; in a day they'll change from pimples to blisters if they're chicken pox, and new crops will appear. After several days, the early spots will crust. Baby can return to day care once all the spots are scabbed over, about a week after they first appear.
What's wrong with this picture? First, head lice are no reflection of your housekeeping. They live in warm, crowded environments like classrooms and day care, where they can easily pass from head to head as babies snuggle together. Lice don't carry disease and are more of a nuisance than a medical problem. They reside deep in the hair, most commonly around the nape of the neck and around the ears. In return for a warm, fuzzy place to live, they often don't bother the host, except for an irritating itch and unnecessary quarantine by the day-care provider.
Lice themselves are difficult to see (they're tiny, light brown, and may sometimes be seen with a magnifying glass), but you may find the whitish nits (egg sacs) attached to the base of individual hairs. You can distinguish nits from dandruff because nits are round and adhere to the hair shaft, unlike the flat flakes of dandruff that slide off easily.
If you see nits, you don't have to immediately share your discovery with your doctor. An over-the-counter lice shampoo (following directions on package) and a specially designed nit-removal comb will suffice for an evening at-home treatment. Your baby may return to day care the next morning, but be prepared for the day-care provider to scan every hair looking for nits -- hence the term "nit picker" -- and to call for pickup if even one egg is found.
Who Plays Nurse When Baby Is Sick?
While there is no better nurse than a caring parent in a child's own home, this ideal may not be possible, especially for financially strapped and single parents. Consider these alternatives.
Try shift work. Mom is nurse in the morning, dad in the afternoon. Your child gets special TLC from both parents and both sharpen their sick-child-care skills.
Take your baby to work. If you baby is not sick enough to stay home but is not permitted in day care, prepare a "sickroom" at work, if circumstances permit. If you have your own office, set up camp in the corner, including her favorite books, toys, and blankets. This scene is also a prime chance for your child to learn about your work. If the older patient is willing and able, give her some time-occupying task to "help" you at work. Your child will feel important and get her mind off being sick.
Have grandmother on call. If blessed with a nearby extended family, ask grandma to pinch-hit. Grandmothers have time, unlimited patience, and the price is right.
Use a sick-child-care center. Explore what facilities for sick children are available in your community. Some day-care centers and hospital pediatric wards have get-well rooms, staffed with sensitive caregivers trained to care for sick children. However, they are expensive.
Plan ahead. Before your baby gets sick -- and she will -- devise a family game plan rather than scrambling for on-the-spot decisions with the first fever. Decide with your spouse who will stay home. Have backup caregivers on call. Find out your day-care center's sick-child admission policies. Are there home-care agencies available, and what is their cost? Find out what's available, affordable, and above all what's best for your child.
Taking a baby out of day care may mean paycheck deductions for working parents, but a day at home with your sick child can have its compensations. Being at home with your sick baby is a chance to rebond. Especially if you have recently locked horns with your child or she is going through an independence streak, a day at home may do wonders for your relationship. Babies go from independent to dependent when sick, as if clicking into a memory of what "mother" and "father" really mean. Making chicken soup and popsicles, giving back rubs and reading stories -- a day at home with your baby is a chance for your nursing, and parenting, skills to shine.
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