Mia Freedman: Today I sent my daughter to school sick

Mamamia

It's been a week where the way 4 year olds blow out birthday candles has been a big story. In case you missed it, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek announced new health guidelines for childcare centres  designed to curb the spread of germs. Things like not blowing out communal birthday cakes and washing hands more often and not sending kids to school when they're sick.

The bit about sending kids to school when they're sick is a huge issue among parents – and teachers. We've all been furious to drop our kids off or pick them up and notice other children with hacking phlegmy coughs or snot all over their faces, merrily spreading their viruses with gay abandon.

But – be honest – every parent has also had to make the call whether or not to send a kid to school when they're a bit off colour.

This morning is an interesting example from my life.

My daughter is 7 and she woke up complaining of a sore throat. She often complains of various symptoms. She is a sensitive little thing.

So, I suggested she have a drink and some breakfast and get dressed. It's a tactic I learned from my own mother (who had to get to work) – by the time the kid is dressed and has made the mental shift from home to school, symptoms usually dissipate and they lose the will to push for a sick day.

She did all that and was still complaining so I looked in her throat with a torch. Red. Kissed her forehead. Warm but not too hot. Took her temperature. Pretty normal.

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So I gave her some Panadol and sent her to school, telling her to ask the teacher to send her to sick bay if she felt worse.

Did I do the wrong thing? Should I have kept her home?

Parents who work outside the home  only have so many days they can stay home to look after sick kids. We only have so many favours we can call in from grandparents and other relatives, urgently conscripted to look after our sick kids when we have to be at work.

We have to make dozens of calls every morning about how sick our kids really are and there are a multitude of factors we have to consider: the welfare of our own kids, the practicalities of staying home to care for them and the demands of our jobs. I'm sure I don't always get it right but you have to judge where on the scale between 'faking it' and "really sick' your kid is.

If they're just a bit sick – perhaps fighting off a virus or with the tail end of a cold – there aren't many of us who can afford to take 'buffer' days and keep our kids home. And what about those post-viral coughs that can hang around for weeks!

So how do you tell? How do you decide when to send and when to stay home?

Me, I'm keeping an eye on the phone in case school calls. So far so good.

How do you handle days at work with sick children?

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