Kids Not Feeling Well: Stay home or go to school?

School began three weeks ago. Three days in, Lexie complained her throat hurt. No fever but it was clear she had some congestion. The next morning came the familiar debate – do we send her to school because it is only a cold (or perhaps allergies) or do we keep her home?

No one likes to have to be at school or work when they don’t feel well. But the reality is that sometimes you do just need to muddle through it. And though colds can hit you hard, I don’t want Lexie to think she needs to stay home whenever she feels bad. And Lexie is the kind that would use any excuse to stay home (or up late at night).

So, the next morning, her lymph nodes are swollen. Her throat and stomach hurt. She wasn’t running a fever or throwing up – the keys to an automatic stay at home decision.

My initial reaction was to give her some cold medicine and send her to school. Yes, I may be receiving a call from the nurse later that Lexie is in her office feeling ill. But once up she might feel better and be able to make it through the school day.

But it always pulls at me that she looks and sounds so bad. She was pale and clearly feeling poorly However, I have made the decision before to keep one of the kids home only to have them running around like nothing is wrong a few hours later.

After a discussion with both my husband and then Lexie, it was decided she could stay home. I stressed to her that she couldn’t play Xbox all day, and if she began running around like nothing was wrong that I would immediately take her to school.

I did leave her home alone while I went to the dentist. When I came home, she was asleep. After lunch and some more rest, she began to perk up. By 2 p.m., she was feeling better. And she did go to school on Friday with no symptoms, which made me wonder if it was allergies verse a cold. Or perhaps the rest did its job and let her body fight off the cold.

In this case, it was a good decision to stay home. She is better and didn’t miss too much at school since it was only the fourth day of classes. But next time who knows if it will be the right decision. It would be much easier if I could stick to the fever or vomiting equals staying home and all else means going to school, but obviously it is not as easy as that.

Deciding when to keep your kids home from school

The phone rings. I see on the caller ID that it is the school calling. Sigh. No one wants a call from the school. It is never good.

sick childIt was the nurse’s office. Lexie was in the office complaining of not feeling well. She said her head and stomach hurt but the nurse said she wasn’t running a fever. After a brief conversation on the phone with Lexie, I decided to pick her up from school.

No one likes when their children don’t feel well. And no one likes to have to be at school or work when they don’t feel well. But the reality is that sometimes you do just need to muddle through it.

After bringing Lexie home and dosing her with some medicine for the headache, I sat her down for a heart-to-heart discussion about staying home from school. This was the second time in two months that she has gone to the nurse’s office and come home early, and I didn’t want it to become a habit.

I stressed to her the importance of being at school. Her job as a child is to learn, and she can’t do that if she is at home. And while I know she wasn’t feeling well and that it might make it harder to learn, sometimes you just have to deal with it.

I told her that since she had done this twice, I would be following my normal sick day rules – if you aren’t throwing up or running a fever (over 100 degrees) you should be at school.

There have been a few times that I have relented in this policy and let the kids stay home. Each time I have regretted it as they are never truly sick. Yes, in some cases they are not at 100%, but they weren’t contagious and should have been at school learning.

I know quite a few other parents who keep their kids home every time the kid says they are not feeling well. I think the kids have caught on as to how to not go to school. But too many absences from school can easily hurt your child’s grades.

My belief that learning and school are important are also why we don’t take the kids out of school for vacations. Oh don’t get me wrong, I have taken them out of school for a half day to take them to the rodeo or even a whole day for a trip to the beach. But I won’t be pulling them out for a cruise or week-long trip to Disney World during the school year.

For the first three years of school, Jase never made it to the last day of school as we always pulled him out on the last day or two of school for a vacation but at this time the grades are in and the learning is done. It is a whole different matter to miss so much time during the rest of the school year. I just can’t in good consciences do it. We can go on our family vacations during school breaks.

But in the end, I know each parent has to decide what is best for their child and their family. Maybe you don’t mind having your child away from school. They are only young once after all. But for my kids, I believe the best place for them is at school learning. And I told Lexie that from now on, if she goes to the nurse’s office, I am not coming to pick her up unless the nurse says I have to do so.

Deciding when to take the kids to the doctor

One November morning, Jase came down the stairs, coughing. It was deep, unproductive sound. I got him a glass of milk. As soon as he took a sip, he started coughing more and sounding like he might throw up. But in fact, I think he was just coughing so hard that he couldn’t get air back into his lungs. This of course set him into a panic which made the situation worse.

Finally, my husband was able to calm him down. He had him lie on the bed and just focus on breathing. Jase sounded like Darth Vader. There was no way we wanted to send him to school sounding like that so I took Lexie to school and when I returned, I called the doctor’s office to see if we should bring him in.

sick childThat is always a quandary for parents – when is your child sick enough to need to see a doctor? I am not the kind that takes them in at every little sniffle or fever. In fact, I would rather NOT take them in unless I believe it to be serious. Heck, I don’t even medicate a fever (see my post last year on that topic) unless it is over 102 or causing the child discomfort.

Of course if the fever persists or there are other symptoms, I will take my kid to the doctor. I just don’t want to be one of these over-protective parents. I have friends who take their kids in whenever they start to feel bad, so they can “get ahead” of whatever is wrong.

Now I will admit that I have taken the kids in for minor things right before we plan to go out of town. I don’t know what it is but as soon as we have trip plans, one of them will run a fever or get sick. Since I don’t want to be out of town and discover they have an ear infection or something that needs treatment, I have taken them to the doctor. And each time it has turned out to be nothing serious. It does give me peace of mind, but I always feel slightly silly as I would have never brought them in if we hadn’t been getting ready to leave town.

So back to Jase and his breathing, I received a return call from a nurse from the doctor’s office. Since it was a breathing issue, they would want to see him, but they don’t have any openings for the next four hours. She suggests we take him to Urgent Care so off he and my husband went. They did a chest x-ray and had him breathe with a nebulizer. They gave him a steroid and sent him home with a two-day supply of steroids and the nebulizer. It turned out to just be a virus and by that afternoon, he was feeling better.

There are all sorts of lists online or in books that give you guidelines about when to take your kid to the doctor. But I think the best course of action when you are in doubt – and the one I use the most – is just call and talk with a nurse or doctor who can determine if they need to be seen. When in doubt, it is always better to err on the side of caution and take them in – even if you feel silly for doing it when nothing turns out to be wrong with them.