I continue to talk about it being the “sick season” and thankfully it is now February! Parents are all tired of having sick children and I can now at least assure them that we are halfway to the end of upper respiratory and flu season.
But, with that being said that means I am still seeing children with RSV, Flu and every other virus I can think of. Remember, the majority of the illness I see every day in my office is VIRAL. It really doesn’t matter if you can put a name to the virus, as the treatment is the same. Rest, fluids, fever control and watch for any respiratory distress or symptoms of dehydration. As I told one young mother who said that her other child had been tested for RSV (by another doctor), testing the child I was now seeing will not make any difference in how we treat the illness. So, why make the child uncomfortable when doing the swab and also drive up health care costs, for no change in treatment recommendations. I think people are confused about what the test actually does….it does not change how a child is treated, and it also causes a lot of “alarm” as the mother of one patient goes home to tell her friends that her child has RSV and then the school starts sending out emails and parents become more anxious and alarmed that they may have been exposed….as they are every day all over our city.
So…when do you know it is time to keep your child home from day care or school as we all know these viruses are spread at home, school and work as well.
If your child has a fever over 100.5 degrees (by any method of taking their temperature) they should not go to day care or school for at least 24 hours after becoming fever free (without fever lowering medication).
If your child is vomiting, 2 or more times in the last 24 hours, they should stay home. Some young children may vomit after coughing as well, but if infrequent they may attend school.
Diarrhea as defined by two or more loose, watery stools that are “out of the ordinary stool pattern” for your child. Any child having diarrhea that does not stay contained within a diaper should stay home. A child who has blood in their stool should not attend day care or school (and should see the doctor).
Children with strep throat may return to school after 24 hours if they are fever free and have received the appropriate antibiotic therapy. (Newer article suggests 12 hours if they are feeling well).
Your child does not need to stay home due to a cold, cough, runny nose (of any color) or scratchy throat if they do not appear ill and do not have a fever. Look at how your child is behaving…some times a day of rest may be needed (even when you get sick, right?)
Most importantly, it is not necessary to name the virus that your child might have, but to follow the guidelines for keeping them home (as well as out of stores, church, and after school activities) until they are feeling better. Wash hands, cover coughs and yes….still get the flu vaccine. It is not too late…the ground hog even said we still have a lot of winter left.