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How to discourage parents from bringing sick kids to kindergarten or school

Image credit: Health Magazine

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Dragan Otasevic
Dragan Otasevic Nov 10, 2021
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Necessity

Is the problem still unsolved?

Conciseness

Is it concisely described?

How do we discourage parents from bringing sick kids to kindergarten/school and infecting everyone else?
There is no solution when even the parents don't notice the child is sick. But what, when they know the child is sick but choose to shrug it off because staying home would be inconvenient?
What makes it difficult to prevent
  • Kindergartens and schools don't always notice a child is sick until it's too late and the virus has spread to other kids.
  • Parents have to go to work. Their child is mildly sick and maybe no one will notice. They rationalize: "I will lose my job if I stay home every time my child has a runny nose."
  • Some parents see it this way: "My child is feeling fine, they just occasionally sneeze or cough, but the cold is over and they are healthy now." In reality, the child could be shedding virus until they stop coughing/sneezing or having a runny nose.
  • Or even: "It's just cold" (or just flu). This is a normal part of life, not a good enough reason to stay home.
  • And: "This is unavoidable. My child got the virus in kindergarten/school anyway. I'm sure everyone already has/had it."
  • One in 4 U.S. adults exhibits syndromal antisocial behavior. Why would sociopaths care about the wellbeing of other people's kids when doing so is inconvenient for them?
  • Kindergardens are not allowed to turn kids away. They can call the parents if the child is visibly sick but by then it's already too late. The group would have been infected with the virus.
How can we prevent all of the above?

[1]Goldstein, Risë B et al. “The Epidemiology of Antisocial Behavioral Syndromes in Adulthood: Results From the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III.” The Journal of clinical psychiatry vol. 78,1 (2017): 90-98. doi:10.4088/JCP.15m10358

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Creative contributions

An app/service for special babysitters

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MS
Miloš Stanković Nov 11, 2021
Could have an app/service where you could get a special babysitter sent to the kid's house if it's sick, possibly subsidized by either the country, city or the kindergarten. As all of these would help by having fewer outbreaks.
Possibly call the app "Babysicker", where you would get matched up with specially prepared sitters that would have some basic training and a go-to list for helping the kids go through the actions to help them kick the ache sooner. Lots of liquids, rest, teas, fresh air in the room... Also, have those sitters on the regiment of vitamins not to have them as easy targets to the illnesses, possibly pre-vetted for healthy lifestyles. Although it would be best, I don't think a mask-wearing stranger in their home would make the kid feel good.
It would also be a great way for younger adults or older teens considering medical school to feel out the experience with kid patients. ---------
It's a better option than the kid going to the school/kindergarten and getting placed in special isolation for sick kids. As then you would possibly have kids with different ailments mixing. Plus there's the social factor as they would surely get teased by other children for being secluded.
With one way there's a cost of the special space needed to be made for them, which wouldn't be possible for most kindergartens as they are already crowded. While with the Babysicker there's the cost of a babysitter, covered by the parents to some extent. Even compounded it would take a long time to reach the cost of new facilities.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic19 days ago
These babysickers should be paid extra because they would often get sick themselves. The cost of feeling awful for a few days should be included.
Such a service would need loads of people. When a virus hits the general population the service would be overbooked - rendering it useless.
Another problem is, how do you find so many reliable people that parents could leave their kids with?
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MS
Miloš Stanković16 days ago
Darko Savic With Babysicker in place, there would be fewer breakouts in the first place. Instead of a child potentially infecting 30+ classmates or 100+ schoolmates, there would be the risk of that one adult Babysicker with a more formed immune system. Even if breakouts happened, they would have weaker intensity than what we have now because many kids would've been isolated out of the gen-pop for different aches.
As far as the reliable Babysickers:
I've read an article claiming that many nurses retire late only because of financial reasons. While there are questions raised about their ability to that high-demanding job past a certain age, prior to the official retirement standard. Babysicker could be an additional income to help nurses ages 60 up to 65 to retire early and still earn extra money. Babysitting obviously is a less demanding job than that of a nurse.
They already often do meals-on-wheels type services or at elderly care facilities past retirement. Babysicker could provide for more flexibility than those jobs.
Lifeguards have high unemployment rates so they can supplement the need for Babysickers, especially off-season. While they are pre-vetted. Same as reserve firefighters can also be fast-tracked to Babysickers. Plus there's the feeling of extra security the parents would have.
Children entertainers also have high unemployment rates, so they could be utilized as well as long as they are not working on the weekends, as it would defeat the purpose. While having loads of experience with children and could help ease up the ache with their talents. Although entertainers who work on stage - that is not in close contact with children as clowns for instance - could still be Babysickers even if they had active jobs.
The problem of reliability could also be tackled by having Babysickers equipped with body cams that feed solely to the parents. Some of these cameras go for $19,99 at Amazon, they could be dirt cheaper in bulk.
The problem of reliability could also be tackled by the app firstly looking for the Babysicker in the neighbourhood, raising the chances of the parents being familiar with the person. As that is the case normal babysitters get picked often.
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The teacher keeps a log of when specific kids were seen with symptoms and produces a visual map of events

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Nov 13, 2021
All parents are asked for consent to the teacher keeping a "public ledger of the group's symptoms" that is shared only with the group's parents (not with the kids). The kids wouldn't know about this from the teacher. Parents would be instructed not to talk about this with the kids because it's not their responsibility and it shouldn't be their problem.
The kids of parents that don't consent are named "anonymous" on the map. But the teacher would tell that specific parent what they saw that day.
The teacher would log the symptoms on an interactive map. Based on what happens next with other kids, the parents can draw some assumptions of where the pathogen came from.
This would serve as a sort of "wall of shame" for the parents. They might think twice before sending a sick kid to kindergarten/school because all other parents will make assumptions even if there is no proof. Nobody can be blamed because there is no proof, but fingers could be pointed. That should bring some shame and serve as a deterrent for selfish behavior.
There would always be the possibility of the map showing that you introduced the virus into the group. Consequently everyone elses kids got sick in the following days.
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Promote change of mindset about taking sick days off from school and work

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Michaela D
Michaela D Nov 26, 2021
For me, it is a very similar problem to people going to work when they are sick with “just a flu”. The reason is social pressure to show you are always hard-working. People are afraid they will be considered lazy if they take sick days off or they stay at home because their child is sick. So, the ideal solution would be to promote a change of this mindset. Institutions can start campaigns teaching people that it is better to not come to work when they are sick and can stay at home if their kids are sick, too. Of course, if possible, people would work from home. More arguments like those you mentioned in the open letter, Darko, would fit very well in this campaign.
It may seem that employers would not be so willing to accept this, but in the end, this would be to the benefit, as well. Not only people would be happier but they would minimize contamination among colleagues which means higher productivity. In case people seem to be taking too many sick days off for them or for the kids some requirements could be set such as a letter from the doctor that they or the kid are sick or from the school that the kid was absent.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic12 days ago
We should find more ways to protect employers from people who lie about being sick just to take time off.
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Michaela D
Michaela D7 days ago
Darko Savic different ways could be:
1) When you are obviously sick (nasal or broken voice, coughing etc) just a call to the company would be enough to prove that you are sick.
2) If you are not sick but you cannot hear it (just fever or stomach flu) you could give samples to a lab that collaborates with your company. They would analyze it for common pathogens.
3)A swab like the one you mentioned that could detect general viral infection.
4) And the standard: letter from a doctor that you or your kid are sick or from the school that many kids are sick.
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Sick kid ends up in isolated class payed by their parents

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J
Juranium Nov 11, 2021
Although it seems very strict, I assume we would all appreciate the additional safety when our kids' health is at stake. Therefore, I propose a below-described protocol.
Prepare kindergartens for disease spread prevention:
  • Educate kindergarten teachers on how to recognize the most common disease symptoms
  • Install thermal cameras at the entrance for the easier detection of higher body temperature due to fever (probably already done due to COVID-19)
  • Buy thermometers and disinfectants (probably already done due to COVID-19)
Every time a parent brings a sick kid into the kindergarten and the thermal cameras or the teachers recognize the disease:
  • A kid gets isolated in the gentliest way and gets a trained tutor for isolated class
  • Parents get a bill for the additional hours a tutor spent with their child (the price could depend if the parents have additional health insurance or not, but would have to cover at least half of the teachers hourly rate)
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni25 days ago
I think the social isolation of the kid may be far more harmful in the long term than the occasional flu. From the point of view of the kid, the isolation comes from no fault of their own. Even worse, they may associate getting sick with sin and subsequent punishment (the isolation). Even though the isolated class will have a tutor, the kid will still be away from their friends, probably impacting their mental health, too.
Also, as Darko Savic pointed out, the parents may claim that the child was not sick when they left home and may have gotten infected at school from other kids who may simply be carriers, and therefore, asymptomatic, further fuelling the confusion. There is really no objective way of finding out the truth. And when it comes to paying a hefty fee (for the isolated class), parents will come with reasons to avoid it.
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Juranium24 days ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni I agree with both, you and Darko Savic, but for the sake of the discussion, I will try to defend my opinion.
Social isolation should not be done as a punishment. The teachers should be trained to present the isolation just like the vaccination is presented now - it's done for the sake of the child and the people in general. The kid should feel like it's doing it for the common good and be proud of him/herself. Also, depending on the size of the kindergarten, kids will probably never be alone in the isolated class.
The second problem could be solved by implementing fast tests and thermal cameras on the entrances, as I mentioned above.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savica month ago
I was thinking about this but figured it was a sure way to motivate parents to bring their sick kids even more. They might think: "If they don't figure out the child is sick, all good (for me), if they do, I pay a little extra (all good for the child)."
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An open letter from one parent to the rest

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Nov 18, 2021
One of the parents could take the initiative and write an open letter to all the parents. What should the letter contain?
  • A brief explanation of what causes "just a cold" (200+ viruses) and what determines the severity of the illness in different people.
  • A brief lesson of virology - how long a child is contagious after they are "feeling fine". List the usual times for common diseases.
  • Implore the parents to consider the wider families of all the kids, especially the grandparents with weaker immune systems.
  • An example of the kindergarten-wide chain reaction that happens when a child introduces a virus into the group. Briefly describe how the virus spreads to extended families and eventually, at the end of the season, finds its way back to the child that originally brought it.
  • List of common excuses that parents give for bringing their sick child into the group. Paired with good explanations why these are wrong.
  • What else?
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A quick test/swab that indicates a viral infection. Doesn't matter which virus it is

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Nov 18, 2021
Would it be possible to create some kind of quick test that takes a sample of mucus (nasal discharge) and distinguishes between the viral, bacterial, and allergic causes for the discharge?
Basically, a quick test/swab to determine whether the underlying reason could be contagious or not.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni19 days ago
Distinguishing between pathogenic and non-pathogenic immune responses might be possible. So, we may be able to distinguish between allergic and viral/bacterial causes. However, distinguishing between viral and bacterial responses might be extremely difficult since there is near-complete overlap between the two in terms of the immune response and also, the viral attack is usually mediated via bacteria, like a co-infection.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic19 days ago
The test would be useful for this problem. If the child has a runny nose, coughs, or sneezes based on an allergic reaction or cold outside (mucous membrane gets dry and compensates with higher production of mucous) then the test would be negative. If there is a viral/bacterial pathogen, chances are it's contagious and the child should not be in the group until the symptoms are gone.
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General comments

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni19 days ago
This is not a solution to the problem but needs to be said, I think. How about improving the immunity of the kids instead of devoiding them of pathogens? The reason behind the thought is pathogens are the only trigger that prepares the human immune system and makes it stronger. Would pathogen-free kids grow up to have weaker immune systems? Our immune system has evolved to combat the pathogens thrown at us and it should continue to do so throughout human existence. By eliminating contact with pathogens, we may make the immune system incapable of adaptation and production of newer antibodies against newer pathogens. This won't be a problem until the "eliminate the pathogen" system works. However, there are always loopholes in a system and the loopholes in this particular system might lead to grave consequences in the future since the immune systems will be weaker than ever.
Instead, how about building the capacity of the kids to combat at least all the common pathogens like flu and cold? Wholesome nutritious meals and regular physical activities of all kinds (hiking, sports, swimming, interaction with animals, social interaction, and even rest) should not be underestimated.
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Darko Savic
Darko Savic20 days ago
I got a green light from my kids' kindergarten to come up with a feasible solution and they would implement it. I'll be thinking about this for the next few days. Please help:)
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