Taking Care of Sick Kids Without Getting Sick

Updated on June 11, 2011
C.C. asks from Huntsville, AL
13 answers

Last week, my sister had to go to "an important business meeting" and so she left her sick kids in my house, and she would come and pick them up "as soon as possible." My nephew is six and my niece is seven. When my sister said the kids were "not feeling too well" I thought they would just have the sniffles, or a cough. But they were really sick. My nephew was coughing constantly and hacking his little lungs out, and he had a stuffy nose. He couldn't breathe properly through his nose because it was too congested. He threw up once. My niece also had a bad cough, and she was sneezing her head off and blowing her nose so much that her nose was chapped from all that blowing. Both kids had headaches and a fever. Although they were miserably sick, I had to remind them to cover their nose and mouth when they sneezed or coughed, because I didn't want to get my kids sick too. But young kids never remember to do this, and I shudder to think of all those germs spraying across my house with each cough or sneeze.
In the afternoon my kids came home. They played board games with their cousins and I reminded them to wash their hands afterwards (my niece and nephew had sneezed and coughed all over the board and pieces.) When my sister came to pick them up, I told her that her kids were really sick (her nephew had a coughing fit just by running down the stairs) and she probably needed to take them to see a doctor. But she said that they just needed some rest, and it would be okay.
The next day, my kids had already begun to show symptons of a cold (my daughter had a sore throat and my twin boys had runny noses). I had the startings of a cold three days later, but I took some medicine and I got better. But today, my daughter is still sick and she has missed days off school (which she never has). She still has a fever.
Is my sister irresponsible for not taking her kids to the doctor? They were really sick. And how DO I take care of sick kids and not get my whole family sick? I know I could take vitamins, disinfect everything afterwards, but do they really help if you are in close contact with sick people for a whole afternoon?

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So What Happened?

my sister brought them to see the doctor. Turned out that my nephew had mild asthma, which would be triggered when he's sick and it's not treated properly. The doctor gave them some medicine for their fever. They got better in no time! anyway, thanks for all your help, moms!

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answers from Williamsport on

Doesn't sound like the kids had a "doctor visit" type sickness. Mine have had hundreds of severe colds and some stomach flus and I never take them in. The most was my daughter's first year of daycare where she caught every germ, got sick and gave to all us. Rest and fluids and time is what it takes.

You can't really keep well around other sick kids just like you cant' keep well around sick co workers. People should try not to spread things, but it happens. I was lucky last time, all 3 of my kids had the stomach flu at the SAME TIME. I was the only parent home. I was wiping up vomit all day and night for days, and I never caught it. Phew. The last few times they caught it, I got it too.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

If your daughter started getting symptoms the next day, then she didn't get it from her cousins. It sounds like something is going around and they were exposed to it at approximately the same time.
And no, I don't think she was irresponsible for not taking her kids to the doctor. As long as it didn't get into their lungs, it was just a nasty virus that would run its course. I personally would not have asked someone else to take care of my kids when they were so obvioiusly contagious (the fever), but maybe she just thought it was a typical cold when she dropped them off? I hope so anyway!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

I don't think your sister was irresponsible by not taking the kids to the doctor. She was probably right and the kids just needed rest. I am not a beliver that every sneeze and cold warrants a doctor visit. HOWEVER, I do think that she was quite insensitive to dump her sick kids on you knowing that you had kids as well. No one wants their kids to get sick too...and I think you were kind of screwed once the kids showed up. I do understand work pressures as I work full time too. I don't know if your sister is a single mom or not, but my husband and I trade off staying out of work for any sick kid/babysitter emergency.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Once my kids are in kindergarten you are confined to your room if you have a fever unless you've been diagnosed with something that is not contagious. In my home the two that were sick would have been isolated from everyone else. It really helps. We've had quite a few illnesses go through the house and they have not circulated through the entire home. I think it's horrible that your sister wasn't honest about how sick they were. I'd be furious! I would never expect someone to watch my sick kids.

If your children started getting sick they the next day then they didn't get from your sisters kids it must be going around. Now if it were my oldest it would be irresponsible of me to not take him to the doctor because colds like that cause his asthma to flare badly but in a typical healthy child they don't need to e seen for a bad old the concern comes when they start to be on the mend and then take a turn for the worse (fever returns, cough gets worse, etc) bc then they could have a secondary infection that requires attention.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It usually takes 7 days for any germ to incubate. I honestly think your daughter would have gotten sick regardless.
As for staying healthy while caring for sick kids - wash your hands, spray everything with Lysol and bleach anything you can. You need to hit every door knob, every handle, the bathrooms especially, and every chair, counter, and solid surface that germs can land on and stick. When the stomach bug hits this house, the child is relegated to their room (with a bucket) and the bathroom. I then clean every room top to bottom. Once the sick kid stops hurling, I clean the bathroom from top to bottom and wash the sick kid's sheets in hot. Once that child goes back to school, that bedroom gets cleaned top to bottom and the sheets are washed in hot again. This technique seems to keep the bug relegated to the one person.
I try to do the same thing if the kids get a cold...



answers from Los Angeles on

I don't think you sister was irresponsible for not taking them to the doctor. There's nothing the doctor could have done about it. She was perhaps a bit self-interested when she down-played how sick they were. I think a lot of parents do this when they're busy, overcommitted, and are desperate for care for their children. Everyone needs lots of rest and fluids!


answers from Boston on

I agree with isolating them from the others. You can also teach them to sneeze and cough into the elbow - that's the new "cool" thing (advised by doctors) and it's much better than coughing into the hand which then is used to touch other things.

I disagree about all that bleach and lysol - they are really pretty toxic (especially the bleach) and terrible for the environment. Too much exposure causes damage to the person using it - I forget if it's liver or nerve damage, but my doctor told me this. Moreover, the doctors and scientists are saying that endless disinfecting (with usual cleaners and also antibacterial hand soaps) are actually killing off weaker bugs and allowing for the emergence of "super-bugs" - it's making the situation worse. If the kids had colds, those are viral infections - nothing antibacterial is going to work anyway, and there's nothing the doctor can give them (no antibiotics). Perhaps something at night to ease the coughing and congestion so they can sleep and get some rest would help, but that's it. If it's really bad, someone should listen to their lungs (pneumonia, asthma) and check for sinus infections, but that's a judgment call.

Regular vitamins don't work very well - only about 20% is absorbed and the rest passes out of your body. I've got a page from the Physician's Desk Reference that explains this and there's even an x-ray of undigested pills working their way through the intestinal system.

We used a comprehensive and balanced liquid nutritional supplement (powder you mix in liquid at the time you're taking it, so it's freshly made and doesn't degrade like premixed liquid supplements). It's patented (so it's safe, effective and unique), manufactured in the US, and easy to just drink up. No one's been sick in our family in years, including when the swine flu hit and every other infection, plus this insane spring allergy season was nothing for us. So it can be done, but not with anything you buy in the supermarket or health food store - those are usually just heavily marked-up mixes.

The only other thing you can do is not take those kids when they are so sick. They must have been miserable and probably wanted one of their parents and to be able to stay in their own home.


answers from Los Angeles on

Reasonably, there's no sure-fire way to have sick kids in your home and keep your family well. Germs travel through the air and by physical contact. Even keeping your niece and nephew in a separate room away from your kids would not have ensured your family didn't get sick as well, though it would have made it easier to contain their germs to that area, which you then could have used a Lysol spray to disinfect whatever they'd touched.

In the future find out exactly how sick the kids are before you commit to caring for them, what their specific symptoms are since you and your sister obviously disagree on degrees of illness, and decline if you need to.



answers from New York on

I had to take care of my son and husband who were both VERY sick. I was very worried about getting sick because I am pregnant. I seriously quarantined them off to one room where they had to stay. I disinfected EVERYTHING they touched and washed my hands like it was my job. I was in the room with them from time to time, but made sure not to touch my face before washing my hands. And I didn't get sick. I think the best thing for you to do is to keep the sick kids in one room. No it may not be fun for them or easy since they are kids and want to play with each other, but if you don't want the whole house sick you have to. And lysol, lysol, lysol everything! I must have wiped the same things down 10 times in one day. The remote, the toilet handle, the sink knobs, the railing in the hall. Over and over. It worked for me.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Next time put the kids in a separate room. Don't let them lay around your house just anywhere.

Let them only play with a few selected toys that can be cleaned with a bleach water dipping. It's not much bleach to the water though, google how to sanitize toys with a bleach water solution.

An don't let your kids play with sick kids. They touched the same toys and were in close intimate contact with these poor sick kids. Of course they got it too. Thing is, they only built a bit stronger immune system because of it.

As for going to the doc, they probably only have a virus and the docs can't do anything for it.

We have a "sick kid" facility here in my town. It is ran by some nurses and they use an older docs office that is no longer used. The facility has exam rooms, a waiting area, an office, and several bathrooms. Each child is sent to one of the exam rooms, the nurses wear gloves when they go into the rooms, maybe masks too, it's really late here and I can't remember. The nurses put movies in for the kids, or they give them some light meals/snacks, they don't play with the kids or spend lots of time with them. That would only expose them to the germs and they don't want that. They offer a safe place the kids can go to be sick and not a child care facility.



answers from Los Angeles on

you could read my question that i posted just a few days ago... there's a really bad virus going around, but the kids usually get over it in 3-4 days. Mine didn't, and his developed into something more. Still the doctor said not to worry if the kid hasn't been sick for more then 5 days - mine was.

That said... You probably should have kept your kids separate from hers. Kept her kids in only the living room and definitely your of your kids' bedrooms (not saying you allowed this, but merely pointing it out). It probably wouldn't hurt to have an air purifier to help clean the air. As for you not getting sick, make sure you keep hydrated and rested.
best of luck


answers from Biloxi on

Whenever my son or I get a cold we are very careful about sharing cups, towels, air space, everything, so we don't pass it back and forth...which we have done before and then both been miserable for weeks.

It comes down to washing hands constantly, wiping surfaces down with disinfectant, not eating or drinking after each other, all the basic precautions. We can't avoid every germ - but we can lessen the exposure.

I feel sorry for your niece and nephew - it sounds like they felt horrible. I probably would have tried to keep the kids separate - playing in the same room, but engaged with different toys. Is your sister irresponsible, Meh, I don't think so. I try over the counter remedies first, but if he doesn't show improvement in a couple days I run him in to the Drs. But he is 15 now and usually tells me when he feels bad enough to want to go see the Dr.

In the future, if they come over sick, keep them all separated. Not fair? Maybe, but easier than dealing with an entire household of sick kids later.

Good Luck
God Bless


answers from Modesto on

Colds are really contagious. I dont think there is a way of babysitting sick kids and not catching it yourself unless everyone is wearing masks and gloves :)
I never took mind to the doc for colds, no reason to.

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