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If You’re Sick, Stay Home! How to Navigate Illness With Relatives

if you're sick stay home navigating illness with relatives

Cold, flu, pink eye, RSV; no matter what the season, grab hold of your tissue boxes and antibacterial gel because SICKNESS IS HERE. Your doctor has told you, your school has warned you, and your fellow moms have discussed with you their precaution plans.

So why does it seem like your relatives are always out of the loop?

Don’t worry, fellow children wranglers. We have the same concerns you do. We cringe with you when family functions have to take place during the winter. Just the thought of phloem-y  coughs and sniffling noses makes us anxious. So, this post is for you. I want to offer you support by telling you that you are not alone.

I am your cautionary tale, your voice of experience.

One of my premature twins (born at 26 weeks!) contracted RSV and had a 3 week stay at the hospital, intubated. At this point my son was 5 months old and had spent 4/5 of his life in the hospital (70 days in the NICU, 1 month at home, and back at the hospital for 3 weeks). If someone asked a room of moms to raise their hands if they had awkward run ins with their families regarding illnesses, I would raise both my hands with my fingers pointing to the ceiling.

So, where do we begin? How do we navigate these tricky situations?

First and foremost, be direct with your relatives. You need to tell them that if they even feel a scratch in their throat or a tickle on the tip of their nose, DO NOT VISIT. Any illness should be grounds for rescheduling. There will be other times to get together, but the important thing is to try to keep as many people as healthy as possible. It may seem hard, but this conversation will be easier to have now instead of when you have to tell them that you had to take your child to the emergency room two days after their visit. The same goes for you visiting them–let them know that if anyone (including your own family) is under the weather, you will reschedule to get together another time.

What if they show up sick?

This is a gray area. The inner momma bear in me is saying it should not be, but it does happen. While you can hope that it is the tail end of the illness, sometimes you have to act like it’s just the beginning. If  the sickness is not noticeable, you can have them wash their hands often and not hold or hug an infant or toddler for the day. If a runny nose, cough, or fatigue is apparent, ask them politely to leave. If they are an overnight guest, ask that they get a hotel room. You are allowed to feel concern for your children and those around you.  One person may be sick that day, but a whole house can fall ill in a week.

You might feel guilty or worried about being rude, but honestly, you are being a protective mom.

As moms, we have this instinct to always worry. Sometimes people will say it’s unnecessary worry. I used to be that mom, the one who always took everyone’s feelings into consideration and went back and forth about how to word certain phrases or how to soften the blow. I’m here to tell you that when it comes to your family’s health, it is ok to be direct in this situation.  You know what is best for your family this season. It is alright to stand up for it. 

Commuting back and forth for three weeks was quite overwhelming when I had two more kids waiting for me at home. Watching your child get intubated and seeing him confined to the bed definitely changed my perspective. Not being able to hold him his first week there, and see his tired eyes looking sadly at you as if wondering why you can’t hug him will break you. If telling my family not to visit if they are sick will lessen the chances to ever get to that state again, I am going to do it.

Moms, you should be able to too. I’m here to be your cheerleader, and there are more like us out there who have your back.


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