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Sick Days: Your Child, And What To Expect From Exposure To Common Germs

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

School has barely begun, but for many young academians, they can hardly await the arrival of the first school holiday. Some may even look forward to a “day off” due to “illness”

Experts say that lots of otherwise healthy children tend to “mysteriously” contract illnesses once the school year begins, and it’s often NOT just because they want to stay home. Children, according to healthcare professionals, are a breeding ground for a variety of germs that contribute to childhood ailments (which incidentally are a natural and normal part of growing up and of the development of your “little one’s” immune system.

Before your child’s system is fully matured, he or she will be exposed to a bevy of infectious illnesses that may keep him/her home more often than you’d like. Among the most common:

Colds: Upper respiratory infections are probably the most common cause of childhood illness. Commonly known as (common) colds, these and other viral conditions afflict the throat, nose and sinuses. Adults are also exposed but to a lesser degree, plus their immune systems have developed an immunity to these ailments. In fact, professionals note that adults are prone to between two and four colds yearly, whereas children typically experience anywhere from six to ten; and, oftentimes they are more severe and lost longer.

Research reveals that there is little if any benefit from treating your child’s cold(s) with antihistamines, decongestants or cough suppressants. Acetaminophen (found in Tylenol) or ibuprofen (found in Advil, Motrin, etc) are noted as your best bets for combating fever caused by colds or other “normal” childhood ailments. Refrain from giving your child aspirin though, it may promote Reve’s syndrome, a rare but possibly fatal disease.

Tummy Aches (Stomach Flu or Gastroenteritis): The second most “popular” childhood complain, ( ) by diarrhea and vomiting, and can often lead to dehydration, especially in very young children. Signs of dehydration include:

· Excessive Thirst


· Parched/Dry Mouth


· Minimal or Dark (Yellow) urine


· Severe Weakness and Lack Of Energy.


Experts note that some rehydration solutions (consult your doctor on this one) may be used to replace lost fluids, salts, and minerals. When reintroducing (solid) foods, start slowly with “soft”, easy-to-digest items such as broth, toast, puddings, bananas, rice, etc.; but make sure to avoid dairy product.

While parents frequently thing that all stomach upsets are contagious, some are merely due to nervousness and nothing to warrant keeping your child out of class. Experts suggest bringing junior/juniorette to the doctor for a true diagnosis and required treatment.

Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis): This common infection is an inflammation of the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and lines the inner surface of the eyelids. If brought on by virus or bacteria, pink eye is extremely contagious. Generally, it is treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointment. For further alleviation of discomfort use warm or cool compresses.

Strep Throat: Should your child show signs of a sore throat and fever there may be a 15 percent chance that he or she has come down with strep throat. According to healthcare professions, this condition is most common among school-age children and children in child care than in any other age group. And, they note that some kids may carry the infection without exhibiting any symptoms.

Usually children with strep-throat have very noticeable symptoms. Swallowing is frequently painful and fevers of 101F and above are common. Additionally, tonsils and the back of the throat are red, swollen and dotted with whitish or yellowish patches of pus.

The most common treatment is antibiotics. Left untreated, the illness can damage the heart and joints (rheumatic fever) and/or the kidneys (nephritis).

Prevention Methods: Sneezing ad coughing spreads germs into the air. Germs have the potential to infect other people by landing directly on them. Alternatively, germs can attach to surfaces such as desks, doorknobs, phone receivers, kitchen counter, etc. Others who them touch or come in contact with these surfaces pick up the germs and spread them by touching their eyes, nose, mouth, etc.

Keeping your child illness-free can be as simple as teaching him/her to wash his/her hands thoroughly and frequently. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people cleanse their hands with soap and warm water for a minimum of 12 seconds.

Alcohol-based sanitizers can also help sterilize hands. Note, they are available in disposable hand wipes or in gel form and require no water.

Sick Leave: As a parent you are probably wondering how long you need to keep you child home for full recover, so that he/she doesn’t experience a relapse, and so that he/she doesn’t infect others. Each facility usually has its own rules, and of course your doctor should be able to offer you a rough estimate. However, most schools and child care centers would prefer not to expose other kids to already sick children….but as a rule of thumb, those with a fever exceeding 100.4 F, as well as those who are vomiting or have diarrhea, should be kept home. Furthermore, some schools and child care establishments mandate that children with strep throat or pink eye be on antibiotic therapy for at least 24 hours before returning.

Other standard requirements for return to school include:

· No Fever

· May Eat And Drink Normally

· Feel Well Enough To Pay Attention And Participate

· Have Completed The Recommended Period Of Medically Specified Isolation.

Remember, that despite your efforts, children will “get sick”. Building and enhancing their immune system takes time and growth. School-age children “do” eventually become immune to (or at least less prone to) common illnesses and gain the ability to combat them more easily and to recover more quickly.

Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles > Sick Days: Your Child, And What To Expect From Exposure To Common Germs

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