Q&A: The tripledemic, lead in chocolate, winter swims, and fevers
It’s Q&A Friday! As a reminder, you can submit questions for future weeks here.
As always, the first question is available to all subscribers (today: daycare in the age of the “tripledemic”), and there are a few bonus ones behind the paywall (that new Consumer Reports article about lead in dark chocolate, cold swims, and how important accurate temperature readings are).
Given the tridemic, would it be a good idea to avoid day care until the spring? We are poised to begin day care with our eight-month-old in January. Our son is very social and we think he will thrive in day care, and we have chosen a day care that we feel good about. He is currently in a temporary nanny share to fill the gap between our leave and when his day care slowly opens up, and we honestly have not been impressed with the care. However, I am concerned about disease — both from worries of having a very sick baby (he is already vaccinated for COVID and flu, but still) and for the household getting caught up in the endless day care plague that we have so far avoided. But then we are a bit skeptical of the whole nanny thing after this current lackluster nanny. We know our baby will thrive in a more interactive and engaging environment, but does anyone thrive when they are constantly sick? So, find another nanny to tide us over to the spring, or bite the sickness bullet and plunge into day care?
—Not Sick Yet
This is a hard question with no easy answer.
You’ve done a good job in framing the question (day care now versus later) and in outlining the data tradeoffs (illness versus social development). Those are the first two F’s from the Four F’s! In this case, though, they do not make the final decision for you.
It’s worth briefly talking through the illness part of this.
First: You’re right that we are in the middle of a “tripledemic” of flu, RSV, and COVID (with COVID probably being the lesser part of this at the moment). However, on the plus side, RSV rates are coming down, and flu also seems to be diminishing. Both RSV and flu are significantly ahead of their typical seasonality, perhaps due to lower exposure over the past couple of years. The result may be (hard to know!) less illness than usual in January and February. This is difficult to predict with any certainty.
Second: Regardless of when you send your child to child care, they will get sick more often. This is just the reality of childhood illness. Some childhood illness is normal, and it is a trade that we make for the other mental and physical benefits of socialization. Waiting until the spring is not a guarantee of no illness, and not even necessarily of less illness (i.e. in summer 2021, there was an out-of-season RSV spike, so things at the moment are hard to predict).
If the situation were that you could for sure avoid illness by waiting until the spring, it would be one thing. With that not being true, the benefit side seems much less clear. You’ve well articulated the cost of waiting, which is that you think it is, in other ways, less good for your child and family.
Again: no easy answer here. My instinct is that this favors the day care plunge, but it’s not my choice!
One note: If you do decide to go the day care route, you should absolutely expect some disruptions. These will be less frustrating if you have planned for them in advance. The quickest route to marital discord is the 5:45 fight over who has to miss work because the child has just woken up with a fever. It is therefore worth sitting down and talking — both in general and possibly literally in advance of each week — to discuss the backup care plans. I realize this seems like overkill, but it will save you.