“Germs in the Church Nursery and Other Scary Stories,” Ensign, Jan. 1988, 71
“I can’t figure out why our children are always sick!” “These infections are costing us so much we are always broke.” “Mike can’t miss his high school classes, even if he is sick!” “A bishop can’t stay home just because of a little fever!”
These comments give us some important clues about how infectious illnesses spread. The Church is filled with hard-working, dedicated people who want to help others and fill their assignments, and who want their children to be at school and church. So these people often go out themselves and send their children out when they are sick.
Sometimes the problem is much greater than just not feeling very well. Why? Because sick people will almost certainly expose others to their germs and cause them to become ill.
It is not neglecting one’s duty to stay out of public when one has an infectious illness. Rather, it is a kindness. Counselors in presidencies and bishoprics and other willing people can fill in when someone is sick.
When should people stay home? When they have an infectious illness like strep, diarrhea, boils, ear infection, chicken pox, pneumonia, or skin infections such as impetigo, or when they have symptoms such as a fever, funny nose, sore throat, cough, or vomiting.
Children should especially be kept away from nurseries when they are ill. Disease spreads quickly when children play in close proximity and with the same toys. Out of consideration for leaders (who aren’t equipped to care for a sick child) and other children, parents should make other arrangements for the child’s care when he is ill.
As much as possible, parents would also be wise to keep family members with illnesses away from others in the family. The sick person should have his own linens and towels, and dishes he uses should be washed thoroughly. Though some germs will still spread through the air, a few precautions can lessen the chance of other family members becoming ill.
How long should sick people stay away from others? This varies with the illness, but it should be long enough for symptoms to disappear. A doctor can give recommendations on specific cases.
If everyone is more aware of how quickly diseases can spread and makes an effort to modify his or her behavior when he or she is sick, the amount of illness in the Church can be reduced. Fewer schooldays and workdays would be missed. Medical bills would be lower. People would suffer less. The way to accomplish this—in the long run—is for those with contagious illnesses to “stay home from church!”—Glen C. Griffin, M.D., Minneapolis, Minnesota