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Playdates With a Sick Child

Q. My daughter and her friend have a weekly play date that we all enjoy. However, over the past several months, the child has shown up a few times with a cold. Why would a mom send her kid out sick -- and how can I tell her that I want her to stop?

A. Over the years, I've found that every mom defines "sick" differently, and tolerance levels often change as childcare experience grows. For some, "sick" means a few coughs, sneezes, and the slightest drippy nose. For others, it takes frequent hacking, flowing mucus, and fever to keep kids indoors.

Who knows why this mom didn't call off the play date. Maybe the developing illness went unnoticed the morning of the date. Or perhaps the girl had had the cold for days and wasn't contagious by the time she came over. The key question is, did your child get ill immediately following these "sick dates"?

If so, you need to let the mother know -- in a nice way. The next time the girl sports a mucus mustache, just say that your daughter seems to catch every bug she comes into contact with, so even though her playmate doesn't seem that sick, you'd prefer to cut the play date short. Hopefully, her mom will get the message that she should cancel the next get-together if her daughter has a cold.

On the other hand, if the playmate arrives with just a clear drip and otherwise seems fine, you may want to relax your standards and just wash hands a lot. (Of course, if you have a new baby at home, you need to be more cautious, which you can use as a reason for extra vigilance.) Your daughter probably encounters much worse at mommy-and-me classes or at preschool. I can tell you tissues are flying in my house, pretty much from October through April.

Julie Mazer is a mother of three in Short Hills, New Jersey.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, October 2004.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.