For working, stay-at-home, and work-from-home parents alike, a sick kiddo can completely derail the whole family’s agenda. When you’ve got a sick kid (or two or three) on your hands, it prompts a string of sometimes stressful questions.

August 3, 2017

Who can take the kids to the doctor? What about that big meeting this afternoon? Our babysitter is out of town. Is there anyone who could watch the kids for a few hours? 

And while we all hope to avoid the dreaded sick days, the likelihood is that they eventually catch up to us all – especially when we’re talking about kids with developing immune systems and school and daycare germs. So, in tribute to the Boy Scouts, it’s best to be prepared. A sick plan can help provide some much needed stress relief by helping to sort out the last-minute details and logistics associated with a sick kid.

Sometimes It Takes a Village

With more than 59 percent of married couples with kids reporting that both parents work, often this old adage has never seemed more true than when an unexpected cold pops up. According to a study by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 39 percent of working moms reported missing work to take care of sick kids; 33 percent of moms reported that both parents share this responsibility, and 16 percent reported that they needed to call someone else for help.

But what happens when one sick day turns into three? You need a back-up plan for your back-up plan, which means having a strong network of reliable, dedicated caregivers who you can call to help out with the sick rotation.

MedExpress Pro Tip: And while it can be difficult to ask for last-minute favors, it’s easier when your support network knows in advance that they may be called on for active sick duty. Building a deep bench of support − from grandparents and trusted neighbors to babysitters and family friends – with regular communication can help make sure you have childcare options available when you really need them − not to mention an extra set of hands to run to the store for those sick essentials like tissues and soup.

Adrianne Basil, a full-time recruiter for MedExpress and mother to an active four-year-old, is all too familiar with the sick day, having had two sets of ear tubes and frequent ear infections with her little one. “My husband and I always start by evaluating our own schedules and that of my mother-in-law, but she travels frequently, so we often have to make adjustments to our own schedules. My schedule has a little more flexibility than my husband’s, so if possible, I try to use a partial day of PTO and ask for help when we need it.”

Father, mother and child outdoors among the fall leaves playing and laughing

Know The Rules

Make sure your sick plan is backed by a little research. It’s important to know what actually constitutes a sick day for your child. Many daycares have more formal policies regarding when children shouldn’t come in, such as a fever over a certain threshold, vomiting, and diarrhea – but they may not blink an eye at a stuffy nose or a light cough.

MedExpress Pro Tip: It’s also helpful to familiarize yourself with your company’s sick-leave and paid-time off (PTO) policies.  Does your company allow for unpaid time off for childcare reasons? How many days of PTO do you and your spouse each have? How many have you used so far? Are your boss and company open to working from home or transitioning your afternoon meetings to conference calls? Could you take the morning shift while another family member picks up the afternoon?

Kylene Hinerman, a mom and MedExpress center manager, knows all about juggling work and family. She says two-way communication is key to both understanding the company’s policy and communicating her own schedule requests. “If my work wasn’t so flexible, I don’t know if I could be a working mom. I just always try to be upfront and notify my boss anytime I am not in the office.” 

Have a Medical Game Plan

One of the other big questions when an unexpected illness arrives: who will take them to their doctor? Many pediatricians have drop-in or walk-in hours early in the morning. If you start to see symptoms of a cold heading your family’s way the night before, set the alarm clock early so you can make those early hours without disrupting the rest of the day. No walk-in hours available? Most urgent care centers, like MedExpress, offer extended hours with no appointments necessary.  

“We have used our neighborhood MedExpress a lot, primarily due to my son’s chronic ear infections,” Basil recalls. “We’ve often noticed symptoms over the weekend, in the evenings, or even on holidays − you know, don’t all kids get sick at the most convenient times? My son even knows right where the MedExpress sticker drawer is!”  

An Apple a Day

It’s no surprise that the best sick plans are those that you don’t have to use. Prevention and daily healthy habits can help your sick plan collect dust. The basics, such as a regular sleep schedule, a balanced diet, and regular exercise can go a long way.

“Prevention is key at my house,” says Dr. Angela Hollis, a MedExpress physician and mother of three. “My kids have been educated on hand washing and are up to date on their immunizations, including their annual flu shots.”

To help you keep your family’s health on track, here’s our healthy calendar with helpful tips and reminders. You can also use this calendar to plot out your annual appointments and check-ups so no one misses a beat. And for the tech-savvy parents, many groups offer apps to help you manage your health calendar, such as theSkimm’s Care Calendar.

MedExpress Pro Tip: An annual flu shot is always a good idea. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone six months of age and older should get a flu shot every season.