Preschool … a.k.a. Petri dish

When I was a kid, one of my cousins got chicken pox. Promptly, all the moms in town brought their kids over to share the wealth. Better, they thought and they were right, to get the virus young, have a mild case and be done with it.

Last year, Charlie and Shane, 3 years old, had chronic runny noses. With three older sisters bringing home Lord knows what from school and a mom and dad too busy with work, sports’ schedules and the occasional martini to Lysol and Purell as mandated by our germ-phobic society, they were a boogie mess. I’m not talking about a little clear drip now and then. I’m talking box of tissues a day type of snot. I would’ve kept them home, but they didn’t have fevers, it was relentless so they would’ve missed the whole year, and I had some stuff I needed to do. Unlike the case of the enviable kid with an early case of chicken pox, I am sure the other moms and dads wanted the twins locked up in solitary. But, was I doing them a favor — exposing their kids to germs at an early age?

Here’s how the immune system works:
You get a virus and your body responds to it by creating specialized germ fighting cells for that particular virus. Next time you are exposed to the same virus, your body knows exactly what to do and can clear it quickly. Unfortunately, there are over 200 viruses which are responsible for the symptoms associated with the common cold, so chances are, you will always be at risk.

Are there other benefits to being exposed to germs at an early age?
There are. Recent studies are pointing to our obsession with cleanliness and germ-fighting as contributing to the increased incidence of asthma, allergies, auto-immune diseases and other inflammatory diseases. So there. Charlie and Shane were a blessing to that romper room and not only am I a responsible mom, I am charitable … freely sharing my kids’ boogers with anyone in need.

When should you keep your child home?
There are only two things that scare me — lice and the stomach bug. If your child has symptoms of either, please stay home. Also, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children with a fever, rash, sore throat or unexplained headache, should stay home until symptoms clear or until they are seen by a physician.

First published August 2013

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.


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