Q: Since starting daycare six months ago, my two-year-old has been sick almost constantly (colds, tummy bugs) — but he bounces back quickly. Do I really need to take him to the doctor every time he has a fever?
A: The short answer is no, and here’s why: The vast majority of illnesses children get in daycare and school are caused by viruses that healthy immune systems are programmed to deal with. Fever associated with colds or minor tummy upsets is not in any way dangerous to your child. In fact, fever often indicates the infection is being fought off by the body’s own defences.
If your child is listless or having trouble keeping down fluids, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. But for an active child who has a day or two of low-grade fever, a trip to the doctor is not only inappropriate, but probably exposes him to many more serious bugs found in a doctor’s office or clinic.
As a doctor I can tell you that, other than my grandma’s chicken soup, nothing in my arsenal will decrease how long these viruses last. Dealing with sick days can be difficult; some parents use up their own sick days, while others make backup plans with family and friends. Fortunately, many people can now work from home, at least temporarily, and that’s a huge help. Whatever plan you design, be assured that spending the day with a child who is a bit under the weather can make for some lovely memories — for both of you.