Tuesdays are Your Turn – The Family Get-Together

Today’s question, from my email, is just in time for these pre-holiday months:

How do you handle family gatherings (i.e. holidays and birthday parties) when someone in your extended family is sick?

My family totally does not understand asthma, or asthmatic triggers. It seems like often during family gatherings, one of my nieces have a bad cold/cough/flu, etc. and my family is very critical of our decision not to attend (because we’re trying to protect our 5yr old daughter with asthma). They claim we run the same risk of getting sick if we take her shopping (which we don’t) or in school. My stance is that at school there is a sick policy so that theoretically, sick kids stay home – whereas at family gatherings, there isn’t. If there are sick kids at school, that I’m aware of, I usually keep her home just to be safe. I know, inevitably, she’ll
get sick here or there, but since that is her major asthma trigger (and her asthma is scary bad), to me it isn’t worth going somewhere that I know poses a risk. What do you think? Am I being overprotective like my family says?

How about, readers? Overprotection or the rational response to a child’s health threat? And what would/do you guys do in this mom’s position?

Since I like Tuesdays to focus on your voices instead of mine, I’ll reserve my own feedback for the comments later today as per usual.

17 responses to “Tuesdays are Your Turn – The Family Get-Together”

  1. Samantha says:

    I dont keep my daughter home when someone else is sick at school. I cant afford to. Theres an absence policy in this state, over i think 19 for the entire year, and they can be held back, regardless of their grades. Therefore I reserve her absences for when she herself is sick. That being said, if I know someone is sick, particularly if its anything upper respiratory, I do hesitate to bring her. I did put that aside once or twice for someone who had been sick but was dx’ed sinus infection and had started antibiotics a few days earlier so I felt it was at least mostly safe. Basically I try to weigh it in my head. Is it worth missing Christmas? Probably not, the meltdown she will have over missing it is almost as likely to cause a flare for her as the potential exposure. Is it worth missing some lesser family gatherings to protect her? Yes.
    Last year my nieces went to my aunts place in Dallas, my girl had been sniffling and such and i felt the risk was too high. same with the out of state trip same nieces made last fall. I decided that while seeing family and mountains is lovely, colder drier air, in fall when her lungs act up anyway, with some of the family having been exposed to H1N1… not worth it. So I put my foot down and she stayed home. Overprotective? Maybe. But shes healthier and breathing better now that I have come into my own as the final arbiter of what she can and cant handle than she ever did before.

  2. Sarah says:

    Heck, I’m an adult and I refuse to visit when I know family members are sick! Fortunately, my family has become relatively knowledgable about asthma triggers and so on, so while they may get upset, they don’t get angry with me about it – especially when I point out that the vast majority of my ER visits have been related to illness!

    So, no, I don’t think that the question-asker is being overprotective: You do what you feel is apropriate for your child, and if your family can’t understand, just tell them that your daughter’s health is more important than a family get-together. And maybe send them some literature on asthma and the risks of URTIs for an asthmatic so that they understand the backing behind your position.I don’t know if that will help soften the blow, but it’s the best I can think of.

  3. Kelley says:

    You are being protective, not OVERprotective. They just don’t get asthma, which no one in my family really does either, except for my mom who watched my AG when she was recovering from pneumonia and I had to work. She said “Oh my God, I just thought you were exaggerating, I never knew she coughed like THAT.” At this point, unless you record the coughing or something, or their own child/ren develop persistent asthma, they just won’t get it. Trust your judgement and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for doing what you believe is in your child’s best interest – aferall, you are the one who knows better than anyone how your child suffers when flaring and your child isn’t old enough yet to advocate for herself.

  4. I know it sounds silly, but we kind of make light of it now. It is so inevitable that I’ll have a day feeling really poorly after a trip to the shops in London that warning the Family isn’t really on the cards. I so want to see them, and my Nephews and Nieces, that I have to accept that Tea means Germs and Dinner means worse (D&V!)-but hey, I work in a school so just think what I must be transmitting their way too!

    I ‘s not just the URTIs I worry about though, it’s the tummy bugs that get me-every time!

    But even as an adult-I have to be as wary as a Mother with her own young child. I’ve got a poorly and susceptible immune system, and I can bang on about food allergies to my extended Family, but can’t expect them to remember or comply. Hence the inevitable post dinner tummy attacks!

  5. Elisheva says:

    I don’t have any kids of my own, but I do get nervous when I’M around sick people. I go to people’s homes and am served by people who have “mild colds” and don’t touch the food and wash my hands a million times. They think I’m overreacting, but many of the people who think that have never seen me sick. Tho when people aren’t sick – as far as I know, I’m a total anti-germy.

    On the other hand, I’m a strong believer of the hygeine hypothesis. I’ll want my future kids to be in contact with dirt, germs, everything, in order to build up their immune systems and (possibly) lower their asthma/allergy risk.

  6. Amy says:

    I was lucky (and unlucky) enough that when AG was little, we didn’t live near close family so didn’t face this problem. In fact, my girls didn’t live near any of their grandparents for any length of time until AG was around 7 or so.

    She did, however, miss out on lots of small holidays and friends’ birthday parties b/c she was already flaring badly or, on rare occasions, if she’d just gotten over a truly bad flare and/or was taking prednisone & therefore had a suppressed immune system.

    Once we started living closer to family (mine first, and then when we moved to Colorado, Mr. Asthma Mom’s), my daughter’s health and asthma control had improved hugely.

    If I’d been in your shoes during my daughter’s worst years, I’d probably have gone to the big events–Christmas and so forth– even if someone had a cold– and skipped out on the random family dinner or the smaller holidays, esp. if she were already having a rough time.

    I feel like family members don’t get to decide when/if we’re being overprotective b/c our kids are the ones who have to suffer through the flares, not them, and we’re the one stuck with the worry & lack of sleep when they DO flare.

    As Kelley mentioned, most family members just don’t understand how bad asthma can get, both b/c of inaccurate portrayals & stereotypes and b/c they usually don’t get to see/hear the bad flares.

    Finally, Susannah brought up an interesting point about just assuming she’ll feel bad after family gatherings but accepting it in order to see her relatives—it got me thinking that if you expect flaring/illness, anyway, maybe pre-treating the way exercise-induced asthmatics do could help.

    Anyone do this? Pre-treat before family events/parties if you know someone there is sick?

Leave a Reply