How Long to You Avoid Social Activities After Being Sick?

Updated on March 02, 2011
J.M. asks from Minneapolis, MN
10 answers

Saturday, my son and I were stricken with a stomach bug. We stayed in Monday and today (Tuesday) we felt well enough to venture out to playgroup. When we woke up from a nap, my son had a fever and I was too nauseated and lightheaded to stand.

I thought we were out of the woods, but we may still be sick. We've been sick more than not this year (the last 12 months)--honestly we have only a few days between someone (husband, son or self) having a cold or stomach bug or what have you (and we do probiotics and clean germy areas like maniacs to no avail).

I feel badly thinking that I might have been contagious and my son might have been contagious and spread it to friends. I'm very cautious about being symptom free before I head out but its so hard--and now when I thought we felt better but we probably weren't--WHAT is a mom to do?

So, what do you do? How long do you stay "down" after being sick?

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answers from Washington DC on

Depends on the sickness. A sniffle? I'll try the next day. Stomach bug? I'll probably stay home a day or two more. There have been plenty of times when I've called friends (or been called by them) to say, "Hey, so and so just puked. Sorry if we exposed you."

Sometimes my friends and I also call ahead. "I know we were supposed to play today, but so and so has a cough. Would you rather we stay home and catch up another day?" People have their own comfort zones for illness (sometimes dependent on whether or not their kid(s) are in school or daycare or the health of others in the home).

Sorry you're sick. Take it easy, apologize if you need to, and try not to push it when you've been down for a few days.

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answers from New York on

I have a rule that I go by always, and don't expect others to, but when I have a planned outing with people (and their kids), I always call on the morning of the outing and ask if they have been sick lately, and if yes, with what? Then I decide if we will join or not. I do this because most all the moms we hang out with believe in 'germ sharing.' we don't. If my kids have a stomach virus, I keep them inside (and miss school) up to 3 days after the symptoms have seized. You're still contagious up to 3 days after the symptoms have stopped, so we do that.
Strep or something that requires antibiotics, we don't venture out until at least 48 hrs on antibiotics, but have gone as much as 72 hrs as well. I am all for comfort. I will not allow my kids to go to school feeling miserable. Fever means nothing to me, if kids are not feeling well they stay at home. Rest, read books to them, make them food etc.
So you can always 'play it by ear,' I guess. If you guys woke up with stomach virus on Saturday, and symptoms ended by Monday or Tuesday, I would have waited until at least Thursday, more likely, Friday to join the world. But these things cannot be planned. We went to a show last night, another mom and I, and today she called and said her child woke up with a stomach virus, which means we were exposed to it, but she didn't know it last night. So, she's not to blame.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I would never go to someone's house or to church when I am as sick as you are describing. A little cold can be contained with some cold meds but a fever is definitely a sign of an active infection and you should stay home. Once the fever is gone, I'd wait maybe 3 days just to make sure you have no residual effects (vomiting, diarrhea, etc.).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

No matter HOW cautious one is; S happens. You think you're better and realize; Nope! Or you don't even know you're sick and realize it after being around people.

It happens to ALL parents at least a handful of times. ((I call it the "groan and phone")). So those of us who don't have kids on chemo/organ transplant tend to be pretty forgiving ((those parents, however, MEAN it when they say a week or more with no symptoms)).

How long to WE wait? Depends on whom we are to interact with.

- Healthy adults and older children = 2 days after no more symptoms. (You're about 70% safe at that point. Still shedding a bit, but healthy immune systems can deal without 'catching' it the vast majority of the time.)

- Infants, young children, the elderly and other immunocompromised people = 1 week OR longer.

- Summer Flu (we get the seasonal 'winter' flu early, because our friends return home from the middle east, carrying the flu with them and so we get it a few months before the flu shot makes it's way west -the seasonal flu starts in asia a whole year before it makes it here, and the flu shot travels with it about a month ahead... production issues... there's just no way to make half a billion shots all at once, it's a RACE to keep ahead of it... as people saw when it started close to home last year instead of where it usually does in asia. Anyhow, they bring it over, we catch it early and have to quarantine ourselves) = 10 days.

It SUCKS. My son's uncles just brought home their baby girl 2.5 months ago, and we haven't seen neither her nor them in 2 months. We've just been round robining will colds/flus (and then my son was hospitalized for a week with a mystery illness)... so we've REALLY been staying out of circulation. Poor them, however... mutual friends brought their sick son over (the bring him EVERYWHERE with full on fevers, actively vomitting, snot everywhere all the time... it's really near ruined our friendship because they're just willfully IGNORANT, self centered, blah blah blah) because he "just" had a cold... and she rocketed up to 105/ 106... needed IV fluids, and was just deathly ill for 4 days, and has been miserable for 2 weeks because of their son's "just" a cold. ((I want to wring their necks)). BUT they do it ALL the time.

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answers from Duluth on

This has changed a LOT since my oldest started school. The rule for school and our previous daycare was that they could go back 24 hours after vomiting and 24 hours after a fever ended, and mattery eyes were to be sent home. Basically, that's the rule I follow at home for social activities too. I know it's not fool-proof--I think stomach bugs are still contagious for at least two days, and obviously I've sent my kid to school with contagious colds--but I guess I figure that most kids go to school and contract their illnesses there. We live in a small town, with a small school; all my kids' friends are exposed through school anyway, or older sibs. My daycare had a great philosophy--they didn't so much care about "contagious", since obviously kids were sharing all over the place, and it was silly to say that, the moment a kid vomited, he was from then on contagious; he'd obviously had the flu a few hours already, most likely. Their theory was that kids who were vomiting, had a fever, mattery eyes, or were too sick to handle daycare were simply too sick to be there--they needed their mom or dad. It was simply a matter of the fact that a kid with those symptoms was too much work for them to attend to--with snuggles, cleanup, medication, etc--when they had 9 other kids to take care of. I keep that philosophy in mind when I plan play dates or go out. And, I'm fairly germ-phobic; I can't deal with vomiting at all, so I tend to be paranoid. I also make distinctions about playing outside vs playing inside, in contained spaces.



answers from New York on

Awhile. Saturday my son woke up vomiting and quickly gave the stomach virus to my husband and I. Today (Tuesday), he has no more vomiting and is acting normal, but still has diarrhea. My mom wanted to come over to see him and I told her not until Saturday because I wanted to make sure she didnt catch it. I usually wait until a couple days after being symptom free for my child to play with other children for 2 reasons 1) I dont want any other children getting sick 2) I want my childs immune system to be not be supressed when exposed to other children. If he is just getting over an illness, his immune system can be stil supressed which will make it easier for him to catch other illness. I know in some situations, this is not feasible as the parent cannot miss too much work, but I am a SAHM, and always like to be better safe. Some mother obviously took their child who was still contagious with the stomach flu to the indoor playground where my child picked it up, as it is the only place I took my son within the 3 days prior to his vomiting. I hope you two feel better.



answers from Chicago on

48 hours after a fever or throwing up. 12-24 hours for diarrhea.

With a cold, 3 days after onset of symptoms.

I don't know how people go till there are no more symptoms. The last bad cold my son had lasted 6 weeks --or the cough did. You are contagious for the first 3-5 days. End of story.

I learned something new recently too (after doing some research). Colorful snot is not an indication of contagiousness.

I usually call whoever we are going to see and let them know (1) my kids symptoms, and (2) the day of the illness. We go from there.

But if we have a class, I go by the above time guideline.



answers from Des Moines on

i know the rule for my sons pre-K is 24 hours symptom free. So that is the rule I try to sick to. We have also had a terrible fall/winter with the germs. I have heard several medical professionals say that this season has been particularly bad.

All I can say is thanks for being conscientious - I wish there were more people like you out there protecting the world from their germs.


answers from Houston on

I rejoin the living as soon as i feel better, that being said i feel your pain! Ive been sick with overlapping illnesses since october. I even missed my own grandmothers funeral because i had a severe stomach flu. Right now ive had the same respiratory infection/sinus pressure since early february, Im about tired of not people able to taste anything, although thats great for my diet!

When i have to interact with people i warn them, i warned my banker the other day that i was sick after he shook my hand and i forgot, then i warned the girl at the pharmacy directly afterwards who touched the stuff i just bought in order to put it in a bag. I try my best to not be infecting people.


answers from Chicago on

24 hours after a fever has broken, 24-48 hours after being on an antibiotic, 12 hours after food can be kept down if stomach bug, or in general -- when the kids or I feel back to "normal." It all depends on what we have. For the kids we follow the daycare rules -- 24 hours after fever breaks and when the kids can participate normally in the regular activities (no oozing puss or mucus from nose, eyes, ears, etc). For me, well -- I am not a good example -- I have to come to work even with the flu at times but I have a private office and quarantine myself there. Don't be guilty -- you guys were feeling fine when you went. It happens! My daughter has spiked a fever right in the middle of her own birthday party before and turned out to have Roseola...something that we could not have seen coming since she was symptom free until cake time! We have 11 nieces and nephews that get exposed when something like that happens...we have also picked up pink eye at their parties when the kids appear symptom free but aren't. The joys of large families, daycare and playgroups!

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