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Would You Bring a Sick Kid to a Playdate?

Erin Zammett Ruddy

It’s winter. It’s flu season. Kids get sick. They share germs. Some of it is inevitable but where do you draw the line when it comes to getting together with friends when there are germy kids in tow?

My friend emailed me for some help with a sticky (icky) situation and wanted to know if I’d poll my readers for some help handling it. Here’s what she wrote:

How do you politely tell a mom friend to stop making play dates when her kids are sick? I have this one friend who always invites us over/comes over when her kids are sick—without telling us until it’s too late!

My friend went on to say that this woman even brought her kid to my friend’s son’s birthday party…when the kid had hand and foot disease. And she didn’t mention it until after the party and after the kid had been slobbering all over the toys. I think that’s a little inconsiderate, no? But how the heck would you handle that?

I am very hands-off when it comes to mild sickness with my kids. I am not a fan of antibiotics (you can read why here but basically it’s because they are so often misused for things like the common cold and other non-bacterial infections) and I don’t rush to the doctor every time they cough or get a runny nose. If they were ever to get really sick, I would obviously take it really seriously but I feel confident in their immune systems for the everyday, crap kids get. That’s not to say I haven’t cancelled playdates because of illness. If my kid is puking or has a fever I would not invite my friends over. And if I went to someone’s house and their kid was puking or had a high fever, I might be a little icked out (ditto if the kid had a contagious rashy thing—eeek). But in general, if my kids are sick (or were recently sick) or my friends’ kids are or were sick and we have plans on the calendar, we do the courtesy, “Hey, so and so threw up last night but she seems fine, do you still want to do the playdate?” This is actually a direct quote from a friend from last week and I still met up with her because, as I told her, it’s not like our kids were going to be making out. And I wanted to get out. (And her daughter was totally fine.)

That said, when it comes to friends with newborns, I am kind of crazy about the sick thing. I don’t want anyone who’s sick around my babies, especially little kids. And if I were sick, or if anyone in my house were sick, I wouldn’t go near anyone else’s baby. That just scares me. And I think that’s common human courtesy. But when it comes to bigger kids and a mild cough or sneeze, I don’t get too vigilant. It helps that my kids are three and five and they know how to cover their mouths when they cough and they know not to share cups or put toys in their mouths. And when we’re out in public, we wash our hands. A lot. Bottom line: I think it needs to be a case by case, kid by kid, germ by germ call. And I always practice full disclosure, which it seems my friend’s friend does not. To me, that’s the real issue and I’m not sure how I would deal with it. So, what are your thoughts on this? Any rules of thumb you live by? Any advice for my friend? Let’s discuss!