Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Preschool and Cystic Fibrosis

When my husband and I toured preschools in the area, like all parents we had a checklist of things we were looking for. For us, the most important aspect was that it was a parent participation preschool. We wanted to be actively involved in our daughter's first school experience. We also liked the community feel of knowing all the children and their parents in addition to the teachers. Some other items on our checklist included a play based school with small class sizes. Since Kaylee is drawn to all things art related we also wanted a lot of access to open ended art to allow her to follow her (current) passion.

Having Cystic Fibrosis, there was another concern that was on my mind that I am sure other parents do not consider. Germs! At the time of school tours my health was doing really well, but having low lung function and knowing how complicated CF and colds can be I worried about the sickness Kaylee and I would be exposed to. We looked for places with several separate rooms that the children could venture in so they would't all be cooped up in the same room, we looked for sick day policies and small classes. We found a school that seemed to fit our criteria, but we knew germs and sickness in the preschool setting was inevitable. Kids that young just don't have the same concerns about sanitation. Coughs go uncovered, fingers find their way into noses and hand washing skills are sub-par.

And then summer came and with it an unusual summer exacerbation that didn't want to leave. As the school year approached my exacerbation was unwavering and my concerns grew. I laid awake at night wondering if sending Kaylee to school while I was having trouble regaining stability in my health was a good idea. I toyed with pulling her from school even as the first day of school was just a few days away. I started bringing up ways to stay healthy with Kay and to avoid germs to the best of her ability (while being careful not to make her paranoid or anxious about they idea of germs).

Finally, I turned to fellow CF moms and got some great advice from women who are in my same situation. I got tips from moms with lower lung function, those on the transplant list and even a few moms post transplant. I thought I would pass along the ideas they shared. Of course air born sickness is impossible to avoid outside of avoiding all public places, but I am hoping these extra precautions will reduce the amount of germs we get exposed to.

  • I asked the teacher to sit Kaylee away from kids that recently came back to school from being out sick or those who have a cough or seem unwell. There is no assigned seating in her class so this is really realistic, but may prove more challenging as she enters grade school with her assigned desk.
  • Removing all school clothes (and shoes) the second we get home. Everything goes in a wash bag in the garage. This one frustrates Kaylee so much because she doesn't want to be bothered with changing again. My husband has done the same thing with his work clothes for years in order to keep us healthier so I am hoping this becomes a family norm rather than a point of frustration.
  • We both sanitize our hands the second we get in the car.
  • The school requires kids to wash their hands before snack, but I also gave Kaylee a small hand sanitizer (with glitter) on her backpack in hopes of encouraging her to use it other times throughout the day. I am pretty sure she only touched it once, but it is better than nothing.
  • I put Kaylee's hair up everyday that she goes to school to cut down on the amount of times she touches her face (she brushes her hair from her face a lot when it is left down). I tell her I am putting her hair up to keep it clean while painting and doing crafts because I really don't want her to become paranoid about germs. She doesn't need the burden of my health on her shoulders. She totally buys it because I can't even begin to tell you how many times at home we have had to clean paint or glue out of her hair while she was busy crafting.
  • We talked about not touching out eyes, nose and mouth. We talked about moving away from kids that are coughing or sneezing a lot and washing our hands.
I am trying very hard not to make her afraid of germ and I do not want to create any anxiety around this topic. It is tricky because for my wellbeing she needs to be conscientious of germs. This will be an issue forever in our family. As long as I have CF I am at risk and if I get a lung transplant someday my weakened immune system will make me even more vulnerable. It is such a delicate balance between not letting CF dictate your life and yet being realistic about the ramifications of "living a normal life" with CF if you are not careful.

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