5 Tips to Help You Care for Your Sick Child
Here are some helpful hints in dealing with a bug to help your child feel better fast.
Know When to Keep Them Home
There are three main reasons to keep school-age kids home:
1. They have a fever.
2. They’re not feeling well enough to concentrate or participate in normal school activities.
3. What they have may be contagious.
Passing on a cold is par for the course-schools would be empty if every child with a cold stayed home, says Dr. Fabian Gorodzinsky, spokesperson for the Canadian Pediatric Society. But if your child is feverish, coughing constantly, isn’t eating or drinking, doesn’t feel like playing or texting (a good indicator of how unwell they feels), or is too uncomfortable to sit at a desk and participate in activities, there’s no point in sending them to school.
Know When to See the Doctor
If you don’t know what your child has or if he or she is contagious, you should have a doctor check things out. For example, if you know your child’s rash is poison ivy or eczema, you can self-treat it and send him/her to school, but an unknown rash requires a trip to the doctor to determine if he/she can pass it on and how to treat it.
“Fever is usually an indication that some bug is brewing-you don’t get a fever for no reason,” says Mary Cunningham, a public health nurse with the Fraser Health Authority in Surrey, B.C. She suggests that you keep your child home, administer acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and encourage your child to drink extra fluids. Visit the doctor if the fever does not resolve with over-the-counter drugs, or if your child develops other symptoms such as vomiting, severe headache, stiff neck, lethargy or earache.
Know the Rule of Thumb
Here are some contagious diseases along with suggested treatments and the amount of time kids should be away from school for others’ health sake. Frequent hand washing can reduce the risk of passing on most germs to others, says Gorodzinsky.
• Ear infection: Antibiotics are sometimes warranted, and your child needs to take them for 24 hrs before he’s no longer contagious.
• Whooping cough: Antibiotics are required, and your child needs to finish taking them (usually for 10 days) before she’s no longer contagious; coughing may last another month.
• Mononucleosis: It can last weeks or months, and it’s contagious for a long time. But kids can keep it to themselves as long as they use separate towels, avoid kissing, and don’t share food and bottles.
• Chickenpox: The general practice is to wait until lesions crust over-usually 5 days after the rash starts, but it’s actually most contagious before rash even appears.
• Strep throat: This is a bacterial infection and highly contagious; it’s different than a sore throat related to a cold because strep is usually accompanied by headache, stomach ache, and weakness.
• Pink eye: If it’s viral (i.e., from a cold), warm compresses help. If it’s a bacterial infection, antibiotic eye drops are required for 24 hours before your child is non-contagious.
Know Who’s Watching the Kids
You may be the “emergency contact”, when your daughter starts feeling sick at school, but you should have your own list of emergency caregivers you can call to pick her up or stay home with her, too. Your favourite teenage babysitter will likely be in school, so cast your safety net a little wider. “Do some anticipatory planning-don’t wait for that noon-hour call to come pick up your kid,” says Cunningham.
Know if it’s Sickness or Schoolitis
Learn what’s really bugging them. Sometimes, it’s not a virus or bacteria. A child or teen who seems to have some weekly ailment-headache, stomach ache, fatigue, loss of appetite, vague symptoms-may have something else going on, such as school stress related to a bully or trouble with math class. Gorodzinsky says if you suspect that your son is faking an illness, listen and ask what’s going on at school. “You have to explore what may be causing his distress, but you also have to be firm that he has to go to school. If not, your child could develop school phobia – the longer he stays away from the classroom, the harder it will be to go back.” If you can’t get to the bottom of it, see the doctor.