We talked to Toronto-based paediatrician Dina Kulik about those times when a seemingly sick kid really isn’t too sick to go to school or daycare.
1. Vomiting doesn’t always signal sickness
If your kid vomits, wait a half-hour to an hour to see if it’s a one-time puke. Vomiting could be due to carsickness, crying or coughing. If it is persistent, or accompanied by diarrhea or fever, your child may indeed be sick and you should see your doctor.
2. Allergies can present like a cold
Allergy symptoms are much like a common cold, with sneezing, watery eyes and coughing. If you know your child has allergies (ask your doctor if you’re not sure), let daycare or your kid’s teacher know in advance so they don’t suspect something else and send him home. Of course, says Kulik, kids with allergies can get colds too, so best to get them checked out if they have symptoms that are outside of the norm for their allergies.
3. Your kid’s rash may not be contagious
Many rashes are not due to contagious illness. Hives, bites and post-viral rashes (like roseola, which involves a rash that appears when the virus is no longer contagious) may seem risky, but they won’t make other children sick. Rashes can be tricky, so it is worth checking with your doctor before sending your child to daycare or school, but if your doctor is reassured, just get a note confirming that it won’t spread.
4. She drank too much OJ
Sometimes your child’s diet is to blame for her diarrhea. Certain high-fibre foods can cause your child to be a bit too regular, and can lead to diarrhea. Too much juice can also lead to diarrhea—in fact, some toddlers who fill up on juice instead of solids experience what is known as toddlers’ diarrhea, says Kulik. But, if the diarrhea is accompanied by vomiting or a fever, it is likely viral, and your child should avoid school until they are better.
5. Fever isn’t always a deal-breaker
Many viruses may produce a low fever, but they don’t always necessitate a sick day. It’s fine to send your kid to school with a slight fever (lower than 38.5C/101.4F), provided they feel well enough, are attentive and playing, and your school or daycare will permit it. If the fever lasts longer than three days, is accompanied by a sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea or a cough, or if your child looks unwell, see your doctor.
6. She’s plain faking
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re suspicious:
– Is there a test today? She could be bluffing to cover her nerves.
– Do the symptoms make sense? A runny nose paired with a stomach ache doesn’t add up.
– Is she eating? A healthy appetite could be a faking-it red flag.
– Does the headache come and go, or did she make a miraculous recovery right after you called the school to report her absent? Bogus symptoms tend to lack staying power.
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