Damn snot nosed kids, get off my lawn!
May 27, 2008 10:41 AM   Subscribe

My daughter started day care almost two months ago. My husband and I have been intermittently sick ever since she got started. Is it common for adults to be debilitated by day care plagues, and if so, when will this misery end?!?!

So my daughter is one and a half. She was flattened for a week by a particularly bad case of sinusitis, a variation of which flattened me for three days and my husband for two weeks. My pediatrician assures me that the severity of this illness is atypical for kids in day care.

My daughter recovered nicely. She now runs around happily with a snotty nose, which I assume is par for the course for kids in day care. However, my husband still has night sweats, and I have been flattened AGAIN with some gross cough/fever/rash thing that hopefully the nurse practitioner will help resolve today.

My husband and I have not been this sick in years. My daughter has only been in care for two months and already I've used up half my sick days for the year dealing with me personally being sick, not her. Do adults wind up catching every damn thing the kids get too? Or do adult immune systems smarten up and finally figure out that they're above puny children's viruses? Please hope me.
posted by crazycanuck to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yes, you will catch everything she catches until you've all caught every germ going around in day care. That generally takes anywhere from six months to a year. Then it will (mostly) end and no one will catch anything (except maybe three or four times a year and not counting those vomiting bugs) - until she starts elementary school, at which point, lather, rinse, repeat.

You can plan on the cycle beginning again at various intervals, such as each subsequent child and each time you move to a new school. The only silver lining is that your immune system will eventually toughen up a bit and you won't get quite as sick as you have been. I wish I had better news for you but, alas, it just never seems to end. Our whole family was deathly ill for months when we all moved to North Carolina 8 years ago - 2 kids in 2 different schools; it was horrible - and then this past year, my now high school sophomore son caught every. single. germ. around and gave most of them to me. So, um, welcome to one of the unsung joys of parenting.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:58 AM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

Give it a year.

Watch out for Pink Eye...... it'll happen.
posted by Scoops at 11:09 AM on May 27, 2008

One of my best friends is an elementary school vice-principal, and his answers to your questions are:

a) Yes, it is common for adults to get debilitated by things your kid brings home from school (or in his case, things kids bring to school).

b) The misery will end when they move out 16+ years from now. It will decrease in the interim, but like mygothlaundry says, every new cycle -- the start of the school year, the return after Christmas holidays, and the regular flu season -- will bring a new round of gotta-catch-'em-all mild illnesses.

Schools are disease factories. You're taking hundreds of kids from all social strata, with mediocre hygiene habits (they're kids, after all) and putting them in close confinement for seven hours a day, five days a week. Any time there's a break for a week or more, a significant chunk of them travel to places where they get exposed to different/newer germs.
posted by Shepherd at 11:11 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I started working with kids (pre-k through junior high, mostly younger kids though) this past fall. I'm in a different school every day, and on an average day I interact/come in contact with at least 150 kids or so. As you can imagine, I was sick pretty much constantly from October through January. Nothing major (I would always get whatever was going around, and since I'm all over the place, I got it all), but when my sore throat subsided in January (when that job slowed down), I was all, "oh, so THIS is what normal feels like again!"

Several of my close friends are elementary school teachers, and they say their icky sickness was similar the first year they started student teaching or working in the classroom. They rarely get colds now.

My guess is that you're being exposed to new things and your system needs to get used to/immune to it. It sucks, but that's the way it is. I'm sure you're in a different situation being a parent, but I'm kind of nuts about washing my hands/taking vitamin C (if it really works, but I figure if not, it's a nice placebo), and trying to stay out of the way of sneezes and being careful about touching coughy kids. I'm sure it's different being a parent, and yeah, you've totally gotta cuddle your kid when she's feeling crappy, so YMMV.

Also, "kids" viruses aren't neccessarily puny. They hit everyone differently. My sister and I both got chicken pox at the same time (1980-something) and were out of school for a week, running around, feeling completely normal except for itchy red bumps that were easily ignored. When my dad caught it from us (he had never had them and therefore wasn't immune) he was THRILLED, thinking he could take a week off work and get stuff done around the house, go golfing, etc. He was on his back for 2 weeks. It knocked him out. I still have a memory of him wrapped up in quilts on the couch, all red-faced but freezing from the fever, looking miserable and giving my sister and me the evil eye.
posted by AlisonM at 11:12 AM on May 27, 2008

Agreeing with mygothlaundry. Your immune systems haven't been exposed to the bugs that your daughter is bringing home, which is why -- surprise! -- you two are getting sick. This will continue until your systems have built up their own tolerance.

In our case, we found that this process took more like 12-14 months per child (we have two), but a lot depends on how many other children are in your daughter's day care, and how often new kids come into the program. And FWIW, my wife was adamant about breast feeding each child for a minimum of 12 months as a means of improving their inherent immune system response, and we still had to suffer through repeated colds and illnesses.

The process can be aided a bit by making sure you and your spouse get absolutely as much rest as possible, giving your own immune system the best possible chance of fending off these new challenges...but other than boarding school, AFAIK there's no way to short circuit the process.

BTW, this is why lots of parents jokingly refer to their own children as "little disease vectors."
posted by mosk at 11:20 AM on May 27, 2008

Yea, my first year in schools I was sick every 2 weeks. Now I'm a MACHINE and I don't get anything. Horray for immunity. In schools as a teacher I mean---not as a student.
posted by TomMelee at 11:30 AM on May 27, 2008

Ah yes - and remember that you have your child's immune system, to a certain degree. This means that what s/he gets, will probably get through yours. It will taper off to maybe two or three good colds a years. Be happy that you don't have your immune system chemically modulated so that a simple runny nose cold won't suddenly grow ferocious teeth and move into your lungs.
posted by plinth at 11:33 AM on May 27, 2008

For me, it let up around middle school. Now you know why all the television ads for OTC cold/sinus/flu medications target the 'busy mom' demographic. Good luck.
posted by thinkpiece at 11:34 AM on May 27, 2008

my goodness. take a few minutes to wash/wipe their hands/face when you pick them up from day care/school and avoid kissing them, etc. until you do. that will reduce some of the transmission of illnesses. keep the wipes, etc. in the car so it's not too much of a bother to find the wipes for a quick cleansing. try to keep their hands/face clean at home and try to wipe off everything they touch, if you can.

i know you can't avoid them coughing/sneezing on you etc. but you can observe common precautionary measures that have been proven to reduce the transmission of germs, etc.
posted by elle.jeezy at 11:39 AM on May 27, 2008

Response by poster: OK guys, you were supposed to be hoping me, not filling my head with a truth that I don't want to hear!!! I'd better stock up on the kleenex and get washing - once I'm feeling better enough to contemplate getting up. Growing up sucks, I can't believe I'm part of thinkpiece's "busy mom" demographic already. Thanks, I guess.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:53 AM on May 27, 2008

My experience was that the viruses will run through somewhere mid-Elementary school, and there's not much you can do.

But, the viruses are NOTHING compared to the HELL OF LICE! Make sure your kids know to NEVER put on someone else's hat, and tell the day care to get rid of hats of all kinds as dress-up accessories.
posted by jasper411 at 12:23 PM on May 27, 2008

Keep it in perspective, too. My eight-year-old has four really great girlfriends. They're very huggy, energetic, and rambunctious. I would much rather they get sick than lose that openness and closeness. Even though we're battling her pink eye as I speak. Even now, in 2nd grade, she isn't getting sick that often.
posted by msalt at 12:46 PM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

When I was getting my teaching certificate the recieved wisdom was that you would be sick for the entire first year, then you'd be all right barring virulent and highly contagious things. It was borne out by my experience. I can't speak for what it's like from the parent side, because it's not quite the same epidemiological situation. But I can say that my first year teaching I got everything. After that, I was mostly all right.

Wash your hands constantly. It helps.
posted by Miko at 1:11 PM on May 27, 2008

Also, now's a great time to keep your hairbrushes out of kid reach. Because treating yourself and a kid for head lice is a lot less fun than just treating a kid.

I wish I didn't know this from experience.
posted by Gucky at 1:16 PM on May 27, 2008

Two kids and I agree with thinkpiece, we/they stopped catching everything around middle school.
posted by b33j at 3:19 PM on May 27, 2008

Try to find some comfort in the fact that you're all sick now, when she's just in daycare. You are getting those illnesses out of the way and building up your immune systems before she's in Kindergarten and absences really start to count for something. I like to think of the daycare and preschool years as serving that purpose expressly; just as much as they ready your child for her education.
posted by iscatter at 5:28 PM on May 27, 2008

I agree with everyone about kids and germs, but I think there's something more to this.

My family also had a very bad couple of months of sinusitus, coughs, colds that would hit each in turn and start again, and general respiratory illness. It was much worse than anything I'd experienced before, especially because it didn't seem to stop, it would just pause for a while and start again. A lot of my friends (we're in Mexico City) were fighting similar symptoms and everyone was as puzzled as I was.

I attended a huge international event in March and happened to mention my health problems to some friends...long story short: the same thing was happening in the U.K., France, Finland, Ireland and Italy. Same symptoms, same strange recurrence, same puzzlement, same time frame (Nov 2007-April 2008). I dimly remember it also being mentioned here, but I'm not finding it right now.

I actually began thinking we had a global, non-lethal pandemic going on. A light version of the Hong Kong flu, if you will. It seems to have died down now, thankfully, and I'm hoping it doesn't come back. Even my teeth hurt.
posted by Cobalt at 8:39 PM on May 27, 2008

Ditto everyone above. Our first winter with a son at daycare was my sickest winter in living memory. It all got better after that winter.
posted by pivotal at 10:39 PM on May 27, 2008

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