Feeling frantic because your child is sick on a school day? You're not alone. Franciscan Physician Network pediatrician Dr. Francine Pearce breaks down illnesses that are on the uptick and what parents can do when their child is sick.
"One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that viruses are present all the time. We don't see as much over the summer because we're not in closed quarters," Dr. Pearce said. "Once we return to school, we have so many avenues to share, either through just hand contact or sneezing on surfaces, viruses exist for several hours. So one child sneezes and another child comes behind them, and now they're exposed."
Enteroviruses, or respiratory viruses, and common cold viruses are most common in the early fall, Dr. Pearce said, and the influenza season follows soon after.
"We just have to be aware that when we go to school we're using napkins or tissues to sneeze into, reminding our kids, 'Sneeze into your elbow, not onto your hands,' and hand sanitizers make a huge difference in preventing the spread of germs."
What Parents Can Do Now
- Watch Your Germs. Talk to your child about covering cough, sneezing into an elbow, washing hands and using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
- Wipe Down Surfaces. Whether it's using wipes or soap and water, wiping down surfaces such as tables, door knobs and light switches frequently can prevent the spread of viruses. "We can even encourage the schools to have them wipe their surfaces more frequently, maybe between classes, just make it part of classroom routine," Dr. Pearce said. "That will certainly help in preventing spread from student to student."
- Pack Protection. Send your child with tissues to have on hand, even if it's already in the classroom. That way, they're regularly available for bus rides, after-school care and other times when a tissue box isn't readily available. This will help limit the spread of viruses to others.
- Offer Medication if Needed. Ask your physician if over-the-counter cold or allergy medications may help reduce cough, runny nose or other symptoms.
- Keep Kids Home. "If your child is sick, coming down with the runny nose, coughing or sneezing, and you can keep them home, that's the best thing you can do, not only for your child but all those around them," Dr. Pearce said.
When To Keep Kids Home
You get the call from the school office, and your child's temperature is 99.5 degrees. What does a parent do? Technically, your child does not have a fever, though you may want to consider your child's other symptoms and his or her comfort, and be ready for the potential for a fever to spike. A fever is a sign of infection in your body, and one that could spread to others.
A body temperature over 100.4 degrees is considered a fever, and if it lasts more than 48 hours or if your child has other conditions such as is prone to asthma flare-ups, a call to the pediatrician may be warranted.
While it's tempting to tap down that temperature with Tylenol or Motrin, Dr. Pearce said it's important for you to wait until your child is fever-free without the help of medication for 24 hours before returning to school.
"Once an illness has passed that fever stage, now the symptoms are reducing and, that at least means that the likelihood of infecting somebody else has decreased. Most children will be infectious for about three to five days from the onset of their illness."
Tips For Working Parents
For working parents, it may be a struggle to take time off or to find someone who can watch your child while he or she is sick.
"This is where your village comes into play. If you do have friends that can watch your child, then it's the best thing. If your child has a fever or has had a fever in the last 24 hours without using Motrin or Tylenol, you absolutely have to keep them home."