This time of year, many a coughing, runny nosed, bleary eyed playdate shows up at the door with “seasonal allergies,” dropped off by a mom obviously desperate for a manicure, workout, or solo trip to Target.
Trust no one. Treat every suspect child with universal precautions until you verify his or her infectious status. Here is a handy guide to help you determine whether the kid has cooties.
What To Do: Kids with seasonal allergies don’t usually have a fever. Grab the kid’s face in both hands and say “I’m so glad to see you!” Hang on as long as it takes to judge whether your guest is too hot. If you’re not sure, brush the hair out of his or her eyes (are they glassy?) while palming the forehead. Try to do this before the mom peels out of the driveway. Better yet, make sure she sees you feeling her child. She might change her mind about leaving her kid with you.
Symptom: Runny Nose
What To Do: The gross reality is that you need to assess the color of the . . . discharge. Clear means not sick. Anything else means sick. As you serve the snack (any snack, it doesn’t matter what), grab the pepper shaker and shake, shake, shake. Be sure you are standing behind your guest, and that your own child is well off to the side and out of the line of fire. When your guest sneezes, look for the All Clear. If you get a Code Yellow or Green instead, initiate decontamination and lockdown procedures.
Symptom: Sore throat
What To Do: A seasonal allergy throat may be red and scratchy, but a sick throat will be swollen and painful. If your visitor happens to be a teenage boy, serve Doritos. If he chews before swallowing, he is definitely sick. For all other playdates, it’s time for a game: Who Can Top The Decibel Meter App on My iPhone Singing That Song From Frozen? Pro Tip: Earplugs.
What To Do: Every well coached child will simply say she has “allergies,” so you will have to engage in a little casual conversation to find out more. Like: Wasn’t that scratch test so fun? What color is your inhaler? Who did you catch your seasonal allergies from? What was your temperature before mommy gave you the Motrin? You get the idea.
With these tips, you can keep your family healthy, and probably also avoid hosting all future playdates. It’s a win-win, really.
Peyton Price is the author of Suburban Haiku: Poetic Dispatches from Behind the Picket Fence, and an expert on contaminated kids. You can come visit her any time at suburbanhaiku.com, but you will have to wash your hands first.