Look out, I’m going to get preachy here in a little bit. There’s not much that I feel justified in really crying from the rooftops, but when it comes to my kids and their health, you can bet I’m up there.
Junior has been sick this week. I should have known it was coming.
Four days ago, after playing outside for the morning, we went to open gym hours at our local YMCA. We had already spent the morning outside but decided to meet some friends for some indoor exercise. If you are looking for a way to run your kids ragged without being outside all the time, this is it. Basically, they open the gymnastics area and let the kids go nuts on all sorts of trampolines, gym mats, balance beams, rings, swings, etc. It’s probably also a breeding ground for every child ailment known to man. Including the one that Junior unknowingly left behind. Sorry.
In any case, the kids love it. Except for this time.
This time, Junior wanted to play with Little Bear for the first half an hour. Awwww, I thought this was really, really cute. He usually takes off like a rocket with the big kids, leaving his little bro to fend for himself. But this time he was all about following Little Bear, helping him climb things, and taking things slow. In retrospect, first warning sign. Then, he jumped into a pit filled with foam blocks and asked if he could go to sleep. That’s when the alarm bells really started ringing. This is not my wild child.
By the time it was time to go, we had a full-blown tantrum of exhaustion on our hands and it took previously unseen levels of bribery to get this kid to the car.
At home, he took a long nap, and woke up with a fever. Things generally progressed from there, and a trip to the doctor revealed nothing significant so we left with the typical, “It’s probably a virus. We’ll have to let it run its course.”
Yesterday, Junior and Little Bear were supposed to go to Legoland. It was a trip planned weeks in advance, courtesy of Omi and Opi, but of course with Junior feeling sick, we decided to put it off until a later date.
Which brings me to my soapbox. Hold on a sec while I get on it. . . Okay, there we go.
There are only two places where it’s okay to bring your sick kid.
Yeah, I’m going to repeat that a little louder this time.
THERE ARE ONLY TWO PLACES WHERE IT’S OKAY TO BRING YOUR SICK KID.
It’s not okay to bring your sick kid to the mall to stretch his legs. It’s not okay to dose him up on Tylenol and drop him at the kiddycare while you work out at the gym. It’s not okay to get him dressed and head to your local indoor play space where you try to wipe the river of green snot from his nose as discreetly as possible. It’s definitely not okay to bring him to Legoland.
1. The Doctor.
This is the only crowded, public space where you should bring your sick kid. And keep in mind he will probably pick up just as many germs here as he’s dropping off.
Most daycares and schools have clear definitions of a child who is too sick to attend. Even though the same may not be posted at the mall, or the gym, or the play center, please don’t bring your contagious kids out in crowded, public places where they’re going to come into contact with countless others, including those like Little Bear who pick up every germ in the room. Your week of sleepless nights and endless kleenex shortages doesn’t need to turn into someone else’s.
There’s a limit to sharing is caring.
And this is just the common courtesy side of things. There’s a whole other angle when we start to talk about health risks. For some kids with suppressed immune systems or immunodeficiencies, your child’s cold or flu could snowball into something much more serious. You don’t want to be responsible for that. It’s not worth the risk.
The good news is, there is someplace aside from the doctor’s, where you can bring your sick kid.
It’s an old wives’ tale that going outside while sick is bad for you. As long as baby is bundled appropriately for the weather, the fresh air can be a relief. In fact, some common kid ailments like croup even improve with exposure to cooler air.
When Junior is just a little sick, he still relishes time outside in small doses. He will go for short walks. He will ride his bike down the street, or push dump trucks around the backyard. He doesn’t have the same energy as when he’s well, but as long as he’s wearing plenty of layers and keeping warm, he will usually still enjoy himself outside.
This time around, he’s feeling more tired so he’s not up for his usual outdoor play. This time it isn’t sniffles and a tickle in his throat. The kid is 103-fever, no-energy, no-appetite, not-himself SICK. So, for some fresh air and a change of scene, we spread some blankets on the ground, put a cozy fleece jacket on over his Batman jammies, and did some puzzles in the sunshine. When he felt tired and wanted to snuggle, we pulled some chairs together and had a little snack, all cozied up. The fresh air and sunshine felt great. And we didn’t have to worry about spreading his germs.
Sometimes it’s just a nice change of scene. It’s all about reading your kids’ cues and keeping the activities appropriate to their energy levels. Just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you need to be playing a raucous game of dodgeball. Take it slow and let your kiddo set the pace.
I have done a lot of research into the health benefits of getting outside while sick, because I know it can be a divisive issue. Tradition tells me that sick kids should be kept in bed to rest and recover. And these myths seem to be perpetuated all over the internet without any research to support them.
As early as 1890, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association was extolling the healing benefits of fresh air excursions for sick women and children (sorry, guys!). They even write about a floating hospital moored in the lower bay near Manhattan, where ailing patients could spend time in the summer to receive fresh ocean air and “salt water baths.” Additionally, “health resorts” in the Adirondacks were attributed to healing pulmonary diseases. Of course, there is a lot of medicine from history that we shouldn’t subscribe to today (can you say lobotomy?) but I think they were on to something here.
More recently, studies have agreed that fresh air and exposure to natural light can actually speed up healing times, reduce stress levels, and diminish pain levels. Amazing right? And if that’s not enough evidence for you, here is a blog written by a pediatrician who also agrees!
So next time you see me lying in our backyard on a blanket with a sick kid curled under my arm, rest assured that we’re just partaking in a little bit of nature therapy! And don’t worry, you won’t be seeing us sneaking down Motrin in the bathroom stalls at Legoland anytime soon.