Blame Ferris Bueller for making us skeptics.
Despite our best efforts, sometimes kids just get sick. Our job as Mom then becomes determining just how sick is sick.
Once you've determined whether or not your kid is faking (hey, we were known for sticking the thermometer under a lampshade in our time, too), you can get down to the real detective work:
Is this just a little sniffle?
Should he stay home from school?
Do you need to cancel that playdate?
No one loves a hypochondriac, but when it comes to our kids, we're torn between the "it's better to be safe than sorry" mindset and the fact that we don't have unlimited resources. If you're a working mom, you'd probably love to stay home with your sick child ... but your boss might have other ideas.
On the other hand, many daycare centers (the good ones, at least) have policies in place that keep sick kids from being allowed to come in (and, you know, spread those germs around).
How Do You Keep Your Kids Healthy?
What are your tips and tricks to keep your kid in good health? What's your limit in terms of when you'll keep your kid home sick from school?
To figure out when a sniffle really is just a sniffle, ask yourself the questions below. If the answer is yes to one or more, you might need to keep your kid home for the day, or even take him to the doctor.
Is She Having Trouble Breathing?
Chest pains are the hardest to diagnose because, let's be honest, as SuperMom as you are, you probably don't have a stethoscope hanging out in the medicine cabinet. Even so, if your kid is wheezing or complaining of a tight chest, has trouble breathing or has a harsh cough, she should stay home ... and probably even go to the doctor. She could have a severe cold, bronchitis, the flu or even pneumonia.
Does He Have a Fever?
The first thing you should do when your child is sick is to check for a fever. Fever is a common symptom of viral infections, like the flu, and should be taken seriously. If your kid has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, keep him home and have him drink plenty of liquids. A child should be fever-free for a full 24 hours, without medicine, before returning to school or daycare. If the fever persists for more than a day, take him to the doctor.
Do Her Eyes Look Infected?
Conjunctivitis, more commonly known as pinkeye, spreads easily among little kids who like to rub and touch their eyes. Pinkeye is caused by many of the bacteria and viruses responsible for colds and other infections like ear infections, sinus congestion and sore throats. It can also be caused by allergies (luckily, this kind of pinkeye is not contagious). Although viral pinkeye usually goes away by itself, if a doctor suspects that the pinkeye has been caused by a bacterial infection, she will prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment. If your kid has pinkeye, the jury is out on how long she needs to be out of school. If she's old enough to be responsible about washing her hands, she can probably continue to go to school. If she is young, keep her away from other children for a couple of days.
Does He Have Diarrhea or Stomach Pains, or Is He Vomiting?
If your kid is physically throwing up, you probably won't be questioning whether or not he should go to school, but diarrhea or stomach pains should be taken just as seriously. Keep your child home for the duration of the diarrhea, pains or vomiting, and for an additional 24 hours after the last episode. If the illness persists for longer than 24 hours, bring him to the doctor.
Is Her Throat Spotty?
Throat pain is tricky as well. Some serious throat issues, like strep, are actually visually detectable. Have your kid open her mouth wide and peer into her throat using a flashlight. See any red or white patches back there? If you do, good chance that's strep throat, and your kid will need to be on antibiotics for 24 hours before returning to the real world. However, just because you don't see spots doesn't mean your child doesn't have strep. If her pain is severe and her throat seems inflamed or red, keep her home for 24 hours to see if the pain dissipates. If it doesn't, take her for a rapid strep test.
Are His Ears Bothering Him?
Ear infections aren't contagious, but they are incredibly painful and require a doctor for diagnosis. If your kid is complaining of ear pain, it's better to be cautious and get it checked out before it gets worse.
Does She Have a Rash?
If your child has a rash, she should see the doctor immediately to make sure it isn't something contagious or dangerous, like chicken pox, impetigo—a common, and contagious, skin infection—or scarlet fever. Most rashes, especially those caused by bacterial infections, require antibiotic treatment.
When the Coast Is Clear
Outside of the symptoms mentioned above, kids come up with all kinds of other illnesses and pains. The following common ones are more of a nuisance than anything, and it's probably OK to send your kid along to school, provided that she will be careful not to spread her germs to the other kids:
- Slight cough or "tickle;" some sore throats are so minor they go away on their own in a day or so
- Runny nose
- Tiredness (that said, you'll want to keep an eye on this one; if your child is sleeping more than usual or having trouble getting up--and going to bed at a regular hour or nixing a few extracurriculars isn't fixing it--it could be a sign of a deeper issue, like mono)
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