There was a time, not so long ago, when nobody thought of a kid with a snotty nose. They were led into kindergartens and schools, sometimes after a spoonful of calpol, and nobody batted an eyelid. Children had snotty noses. Some had them all winter. If you didn’t send them to daycare, school or daycare, how would they get an education? How would parents get work done one day?
It obviously sounds like madness now, two years post Covid. And when it comes to Covid, that’s only right. No one wants to spread Covid, no matter how urgent they need a non-stop job to do, which is why half of the country’s parents are shouting to every person they meet, ‘It’s not Covid. I tested them. Even the throat. It’s just a cold/hay fever/seasonal snot.”
To put your mind at rest, it says: “Don’t worry, if you contact my little darling, your little darling will only come to your house in another seven days and ask at 7 a.m. in the morning and then every 20 minutes what’s for dinner. “
However, it turns out there’s no going back to the good old days before 2020, even if it’s not Covid.
Last week the HSE had a tough word with us about the rhinovirus. It sounds worse than it is. Or maybe that’s an old way of thinking. Perhaps the rhinovirus that causes the common cold is worse than we’ve ever understood. In fact, keeping your child at home is worth the cold.
“The symptoms of a cold can be similar to the symptoms of Covid-19. Don’t go to work and don’t send your child to school or daycare with a cold,” reads the official HSE advice. “You can go back to work, school or daycare if your symptoms have gone for 48 hours.”
Don’t shoot the messenger, but the “symptoms usually last about a week”. It may or may not get better, depending. “Sometimes symptoms can last longer in children.” So that’s more than seven days with symptoms, followed by two symptom-free days when they have to stay at home. That’s potentially a loss of up to two school weeks. Two more weeks of school.
The HSE cold advice makes it a priority not to transmit the virus to others. Wash your hands, cough into your elbow, catch germs in tissues and quickly dispose of the tissues and of course wash those hands again.
No one wants to spread their cold any more than they wanted to spread their covid but there is a feeling that this is now feeding our fear of getting sick at all. Covid has made us anxious and frail to the point that the idea of illness should be avoided in the first place.
The runny nose has also been a bit of a moving festival through the pandemic. Last September, the HSE said it was “usually fine” to send a child to school with a runny nose or sneezing, reasoning those symptoms were unlikely to be the Delta strain of Covid. At the time, however, the Ministry of Education did not agree with this recommendation. “Public health advice is that children should stay home if they are unwell,” Norma Foley said at the time.
Nobody is suggesting that sick kids should be sent out and sniffing around their germs and sneezing. But we certainly need to remember that exposure to germs has its perks.
In our old life, all parents knew that as soon as their carefully protected little ones started mixing with other little ones, they began to catch bugs and viruses, runny noses and all sorts of inconveniences. This always came with the assurance that resilience against germs was being built and that resilience was good.
Perhaps so far into the pandemic we are so shaken by lockdowns and restrictions, Covid infections and sometimes repeated Covid infections that our resilience is weakened across the board. Also, all the kids under four who missed that crucial two years of socializing and shared snot are the least resilient. So do we continue to protect them now or should we throw them in every germ collection?
This is part of the desire to return to the old normal that will not come back. Parents may never drop a bad kid again without asking themselves if they’re doing the wrong thing, are a bad parent, are super spreading something in their school or childcare — and maybe it doesn’t hurt, but it can be going too far.
Of course we must recognize that childcare facilities remain one of the areas of society most disrupted by Covid. Kids still come and go, while families fall like Kegels on Omicron and BA.2, while teachers are seriously battle-scarred. Few have managed to dodge the virus and many have survived two, even three bouts with Covid. Perhaps the advice to leave children at home with a cold makes sense to them.
The concern is: where does it end? When can we stop the constant reminder of caution? When can we actually believe that the children will be back in school and stay there? Maybe next month when, believe it or not, it’s only a matter of weeks until the months-long school vacation.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/so-just-when-can-we-send-our-children-to-school-41538050.html So when can we send our children to school?