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“Is my child sick enough to stay home from school?”

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SchoolPlace a group of children together in a classroom and what do you get? Colds, coughs, sore throats, the flu…you name it. As soon as the school year swings into session, a host of ailments appear on the scene. The question is not whether something is “going around,” but rather what is going around this week.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, it’s not at all unusual for 40% of children ages 5 – 17 to miss 3 or more days of school during a typical year. Approximately 22 million school days are lost each year due to colds alone, and more than 38 million school days are lost each year to the flu.

We shouldn’t be surprised. A group setting in which people of any age are in close contact and share supplies and equipment makes it easier to share bacteria and viruses as well. Most young school-age children need constant reminders to cover their noses and mouths when sneezing or coughing, to dispose of used tissues, and to wash their hands.

If you have a school-age child, it won’t be long before you are faced with a decision… is it okay to send your sniffling, coughing child to school today?

Ask yourself these three questions:

1. Does the child have a fever?

Typically, a fever of 101 degrees or higher is an indication that your child should be kept home.

2. Is the child’s illness contagious to others?

If the answer is “yes,” do not send your child to school. Follow the “Golden Rule”…if you wouldn’t want someone else to expose your child to this ailment, it’s not fair to expose his or her classmates to it.

3. Does the child feel well enough to participate in class?

If you answered no to the first few questions, this will be a judgment call. Some kids with minor ailments feel well enough to function in the classroom, while others will feel better at home.

As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You may not be able to protect your child from every ailment that is making is way through the classroom, but it’s never too early to help our kids develop good habits that will serve them well. Teach them to cough or sneeze into their elbow so they limit the broadcast of germs and don’t contaminate their hands, and to wash those hands frequently.

Kids learn by example. If you consistently take these measures yourself, you will be passing along good habits that they will keep them healthier long after their school days are over.

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