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Too Sick for School?

It's cold and flu season and many parents, like me, agonize over whether or not to send their kids to school when they don't feel well. What do you think?

Your child wakes up looking pale, sneezing, coughing and complaining of a sore throat. You take their temperature and it’s an even 99 degrees. He/she doesn’t look well; you can tell they feel awful. What do you do?

Our family follows the fever or vomit rule. You stay home if you have a fever or you’ve thrown up within the previous 24 hours. I don’t always obey rules and, to my husband’s dismay, I tend to break this particular one pretty often. He thinks I let my kids stay home too easily. I think I know my kids pretty well and know when they need to skip a day of school.

Regardless of the situation, I always question my decision to keep them home or send them off.

If I keep one of my girls home when they complain, I worry they are missing too much in school. I also end up with a nagging feeling they got one over on me and faked illness.

If I send them to school, I worry that they are suffering all day or sharing their germs with their classmates and teachers and possibly getting sicker as the day goes on.

I don’t think there are any easy answers to this common parental issue.

According to most doctors, children should be kept home from school when they have a fever of 100.4 degrees; when they are vomiting or have diarrhea; if they are experiencing persistent pain or have a bad, wet cough. The Cinnaminson School District's guidelines include all of the above, plus they ask that we keep our children home when there is any kind of unclear discharge coming from the nose, eyes, ears or mouth; or if they have any kind of rash. I agree with that one—rashes can be scary. They also ask that students stay home if they have a fever of 100 degrees.

They seem to be pretty good guidelines. If only everyone followed them!

I can’t tell you how many times my children have become sick after telling me that friends and classmates had fevers or stomach issues their parents knew about. I do understand that daycare for sick children is a problem for many working parents. I think it’s a real shame and I wish businesses would do something to help parents out, but that’s another topic for another day. If your kids are sick and you are able to keep them home, please do so.

So over the next couple of months, many of us will be nudged out of bed by a groggy voice saying, “Mom, I feel sick.”

What should we do?

Making that sick day call is a big decision and it is ultimately up to us as the parents. I think it’s smart to follow guidelines set by your school and listen to your own instincts.

Don't forget to remind your little angels that when they are home sick they can't play video games all day; or go outside and play; or participate in afterschool sports. If your child doesn't seem to care about any of that, that's usually a telltale sign they really are sick.

So stay healthy and stay strong. You know what's right for your kids.

And remember, stay home when you are sick!

Here are some sites with tips on evaluating how sick your child is and if he/she should attend school:

Parenting, BabyMed

Rachel Derr February 18, 2013 at 02:29 PM
In addition to keeping kids home when they are sick, promoting better hand hygiene in the schools is of utmost importance. I think the schools have done a great job teaching the kids to cover their mouths with the crook of their arms when they cough or sneeze, but hand hygiene is still lacking. Hand hygiene is the most important thing we can do to prevent the spread of infection. Children should be given several opportunities a day to wash their hands (the proper way) and should also use hand sanitizer when hand washing is not an option (at snack time, when using food during learning activities, etc.). This should become part of the daily routine. Additionally, simple steps such as wiping desk tops off with Clorox or Lysol wipes at the end of each day could make a big difference in stopping the spread of illness (especially the dreaded GI bug). For more information on proper hand washing see: http://goo.gl/qUCWI From a mother of 3 and a nurse
John February 18, 2013 at 04:33 PM
great idea, and who is going to wipe the desks off with clorox, another person for the schools to put on there expense sheet....I get it, its tax and spend great idea....there is no way to stop the cold and bug season....we try and do the best we can thanks
Rachel Derr February 18, 2013 at 07:39 PM
John, I do agree that we try to do the best we can, but there is always room for improvement. Believe or not simple steps like this, would cost little if not anything at all. Not every article or comment on the Patch has to go back to taxes, but it seems that this is the way in Cinnaminson. Actually, Clorox wipes are on the school supply list. Parents actually pay for it and send them into the schools themselves. It takes no time at all, just a little extra elbow grease, to wipe the surface of a desk top with the wipes. I know I would be willing to send in extra hand sanitizer or wipes if it meant one less bout of the stomach bug for my child (not to mention the health care expenditures for gastroenteritis each year-- but I won't get into that here, another story for another time).
WeekendsR2short February 18, 2013 at 10:54 PM
Do away with perfect attendance awards, these just encourage kids/parents to go to school sick.
Sarah February 19, 2013 at 03:32 AM
John your comment is just silly. The kids can wipe their own desks. At my daughthers daycare the first thing the children do when they enter the class room is wash their hands. They do so again at lunch time and snack time in the afternoon. It take a few extra minutes out of the day but really promotes better hygiene and helps minimize the spread of germs. A good thing to remind your children is to not touch their faces. That helps the most to prevent transmission of non airborne viruses.
Ric February 19, 2013 at 11:37 PM
@Sarah. Actually John is on the money. In this day and age we need to much more cautious about cleaning our environment and although it is important for children (and everyone) to wash their hands - much more needs to be done. Common surfaces need to be often sprayed and by a person PROPERLY wearing gloves. By properly I mean most people mistakenly think it is just enough to put on gloves to stop the spread of bacteria but they are wrong. Before you put the gloves on, you should FIRST wash and sanitize your hands. Otherwise the contaminants that were on your hands will be spread onto your gloves as you put them on. I wish someone would preach this to restaurant employees. Also, it is important for children (and adults) to not sneeze or cough into their hands unless they immediately wash and sanitize their hands before touching anything (including door handles). For that reason it is highly recommended that people cough or sneeze onto their elbows. My heart breaks here I read of person dying from disease such as meningitis. For that reason I think it is far more responsible to make an adult, and not a child, responsible for keeping schoolroom surfaces sanitary. By the way, my father died in a hospital while recovering from surgery because he caught a bacterial infection (sepsis) probably from someone who had not properly washed their hands. See where I am coming from?

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