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Four ways to avoid a sick child in day-care


By Cassy Small

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If you’re a working mother you’ve been there.

You’ve watched a fellow mum drop her coughing, spluttering, snot-machine of a child off to day-care. The same day-care YOUR child attends! You’ve rolled your eyes and thought ‘great, thanks for sharing’ while mentally pencilling in a few days of sick leave for when YOUR child inevitably goes down with the same.

Or have you?

The reality for many is that taking time away from work is a luxury that they simply can’t afford.  In many households, money’s tight, and both Mum and Dad need to work just to pay the bills.  In our increasingly part-time workforce, not going to work equals not getting paid.

And it is not always a monetary penalty we pay when the winter viruses strike, there is guilt too!

Some of us are lucky enough to have a great boss like business owner Paul Rafferty. As a father, he doesn’t expect his predominantly female staff to choose work over family and makes it easy for them to take their work home when their kids are sick. Yet even he admits “I can’t help a feeling of disappointment when I get that call saying they can’t come in”

Doctors claim that the average number of infections a child gets each year is about six, but for those in day care, you can double that figure.  So what can you do when you’ve got Snotty-Sue sharing her drink bottle with your child?

Create an infection free zone

While you can’t avoid illness completely, there are things you can do to boost the immunity of your children and create a good line of defence.  Kim Morrison of Like Chocolate For Women recommends the use of aromatherapy.   “High quality, therapeutic essential oils act as an antiseptic.  Oils such as Eucalyptus, Lavender, Tea Tree, Cedarwood & Pine are the BEST ones to fight infections.”

Create a village

Only a few generations ago, multiple families cohabited under the one roof, creating a much-needed support system.  With vast distances now separating many of us from family members, we’re missing out on this important safety net.  Create a network of support and call in help from friends, neighbours and even other mothers from your school.  Knowing you have a list of trustworthy contacts at your fingertips can make the task of caring for sick kids much less stressful.

Reduce the length and severity of illness

Along with aromatherapy treatment, Kim swears by the humble onion, a powerful antioxidant.  Simply cut the onion in half and leave beside your child’s bed while they sleep.  Coughs will start to subside immediately.   Kim also suggests the tried and tested freshly squeezed orange juice which you can get an extra kick from by adding a teaspoon of the super food, Manuka honey.

When there’s no other option

Sometimes even the best laid-out plans can go awry and you will need to stay home with your child.  If you’ve got work to do, create a little “nest” of pillows and blankets close to you and have a supply of books, snacks and drawing equipment handy to keep your patient entertained.  Perhaps a secret stash of stickers and new colouring books you keep hidden away for such an occasion will brighten their day.

Now we’d love to hear from you! Do you have a firm policy for keeping your child home from school or care when sick? What’s your best strategy for fighting those winter colds?

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Cassy Small - to view all of Cassy's blog post click here

Cassy Small is a mother of two and co-owner of PR and Events agency, Big Fish Planning. After a career in the media industry, Cassy was called to Mumpreneurism following the birth of her second baby, and hasn’t looked back. Passionate about women maintaining the career ambition cultivated before babies, Cassy educates and entertains making life just a little easier for working mums.


  • Anthony

    Defiantly agree with the above. Please keep your ill child at home/relative/friend. I appreciate its not always convenient – but neither are 30 other ill children to their prents.

  • Mandy

    Great article, very interesting. Something we have been struggling with in day cares. Will take the advice about the cut onion on the side of the bed.

    • Cassy Small

      Thanks for your comment Mandy, those old wives tales are sometimes the best! Our home smells like a sausage sizzle the next day, but I love the cut onion thing!

  • I love this, especially the onion suggestion – who knew?!

    I also swear by a sprinkling of the Ethical Nutrients Immunity Booster a few times a week on my son’s cereal and always rub Vicks into his chest and feet and pop on some thick socks when he has a cough. Not sure why it works but thankfully it does!

    • Cassy Small

      Love the Vicks on the chest Donna, makes me feel like a kid again! Vicks on the feet is one of those things I always forget about doing though. Suprise Suprise, my kids have the flu at the moment, so will give that a shot tonight!

  • Toni Faint

    I enjoyed reading your ideas. I think bosses need to be a little more understanding of parents with ill children. I remember I had to leave work early once as my son became ill and my boss said its not his problem I had an hour to organise alternative care or I had no job. Not sure how I stayed working for the company for over 6 years.

    • That’s really shitty on your ex employer’s behalf! Thank goodness you’re not there anymore.

  • Karen

    Lol – 1/2 an onion next to the bed. I’m almost ready to try anything. 5 sleepless nights comforting a coughing 2yo, but don’t think I could stand the onion smell.

    To be honest everytime I brought work home to look after a sick child I never quite got it done or it was a really rushed job. What I hate most is when I realise I’m feeling slightly resentful that I missed an important meeting or that I can’t complete a major piece of work. Then I feel immensely guilty and end up smothering a bewildered child in a million kisses & cuddles!

    • Cassy Small

      Oh no Karen, hope your little one gets better soon! The onion smell is a bit overpowering but a heft spritz of essential oils tends to clear the worst of it.
      It’s a tough juggle at times I know, good to know we’re not alone though!

  • Fiona Howett

    Wow that onion remedy sounds interesting and will definitely try.
    We also use Olive leaf in our house as a regular dose in our fruit juice each morning.
    Great read and thanks for the tips!

  • Cara

    I’ve been relatively lucky since my chid started childcare about 18months ago, he has only had a few instances of being ill with minor colds and a bout of conjunctivitis. Luckily my husband and I both have great employers and we share the ‘nursemaid’ role when it is needed. My boss actually works part time himself to look after his children one day a week and was off work on Friday to look after a sick child when his wife was at work. Its definitely luck of the draw whether your employer is understanding or not.
    What I do struggle with is deciding whether or not my child is ill enough to stay at home, half the time we find that we keep him off just in case and by lunchtime he is totally fine! If I kept him off every time he had a bit of a runny nose he wouldn’t be there for the entire winter! Its definitely a hard call to make.

    • Cassy Small

      I find that tough too Cara. My kids have these lingering runny noses and tickly coughs for sometimes a week or more after they are well again. I always feel a little paranoid if one of my children sneezes around other kids and you get ‘that look’.

  • Pingback: Six options for mums with sick kids | workingmumsaustralia()

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      That’s great, so glad it was helpful!

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