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It’s decision time. Your child must get ready for the morning school bus, but he or she is feeling sick. You’re pretty sure it’s not a serious illness—and you have a busy day planned. Should you keep your child at home? These five tips can help you make the call.
A fever is any temperature above the normal range of 98 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. (Add a degree to readings taken orally or under the arm.) Oral temperatures can be skewed if the child just drank something hot or cold. If you use an ear device, be sure ear canals are clean. If you’re in doubt about the thermometer’s accuracy, take your own temperature, too.
A stuffy nose, a sore throat, sneezing or even a light cough isn’t an absolute reason to miss school; many healthy children have seven to 10 colds per year. But kids who are lethargic, coughing heavily and showing other signs they need extra care aren’t going to get much out of school—and they’re probably infectious.
You’re probably more likely to send an older child to school, and that’s not unwise. A sick first grader in tears may trigger a midday call from the school nurse, while an older child may tough it out—and should know enough not to sneeze on his or her friends. Also, it’s harder for a high schooler to compensate for a missed day of classwork.
Depending on the circumstances, one episode of vomiting may not mandate a day at home. Neither does a cold in a child with asthma if peak flows are good. But bouts of vomiting or watery diarrhea, a heavy or frequent cough with mucus, persistent pain or a widespread rash justify an absence.
You may not be able to talk with a healthcare professional in time for your morning decision, but if your concern lingers, be sure to seek medical advice.
Don’t wait till your child has to miss school to figure out how you’ll handle it.
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2020 edition of Oxford Health & Life Magazine