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What You May Not Realize About Your Child's Runny Nose

Dear Parents,

I would like to introduce you to someone…


This is my son on his first and second day of school. Today is his third day of school in the special education preschool. He has an adorable smile and an infectious laugh. He’s so tiny that they had to order him a smaller chair since the preschool ones were too big and not supportive enough for his weaker areas. He has strengths, including the fact that he’s already learning how to read and write. But he also has weaknesses, such as gross motor delays and intense sensory sensitivity.

Most of all, he’s a miracle. He was only 1 pound at birth and on life support for quite a while. His lungs didn’t work when he was born, and as a result, his lungs and several places along his airways were damaged. So any illness he comes across, especially a cold, can turn into a medical emergency. 

It was a difficult decision to send him to school. What if he caught a cold? Can I trust the people at his school to make sure he’s safe during snack time (he has to be fed differently so the food doesn’t go down into his lungs) or on the playground where motor skills are a challenge? 

Our decision wasn’t made lightly and followed many nights awake trying to decide what was best. It’s certainly the most agonizing decision we have made since he left his first hospital stay. A typical parent may worry about whether their child will make friends or behave. In addition to those thoughts, I worry about whether his lungs will fill up with fluid or if his airways will close up. If his airways do begin to close, will they recognize it in time to help him?

I want you to know this, parents, because you may not think of this when you send your child to school or to church or any other place my son (and others with severe medical issues) may be. I understand it’s an inconvenience to have to stay home from work or miss out on other activities, but I’m begging you to think of the other children your child may come across who weren’t blessed with good health or an amazing immune system. What may be an annoying runny nose to your child could put mine in the hospital.

I’ve experienced every parent’s worst nightmare by watching my child breathe through tubes and machines and waking up in the middle of the night with my child unable to breathe. We rushed him to the ER several times with doctors swarming all over him to open his airways back up.

In other children, this same illness would have been just a mild runny nose and cough. I know you may not fully understand the feeling of watching your child kept alive solely by machines, and I hope you never do, but I hope you can understand how it could feel to fear for your child.

I know most parents simply don’t think about sending their children out into the world sick, because they haven’t seen or experienced being around these fragile children. So I would like to put a face and a story to these medically fragile children so you think about them before sending your children out the door.

Follow this journey on Tiny Salutations.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.