This time of year, parents commonly ask, “Can my child go to childcare tomorrow?”
If your child has a temperature of 101.0 or higher, that is considered a fever, and he/she should stay home. If your child is over 3 months of age, it’s usually not important how high the fever is but how your child is acting and what other symptoms he has. If he/she looks sick, won’t drink fluids, has trouble breathing, or anything hurts, call your pediatrician. He/she can return to child care once the fever is gone for 24 hours, and he/she’s feeling better.
If your child has a bad cough or a runny/thick green or yellow mucous discharge from the nose, keep him/her home until the symptoms improve. If the cough isn’t improving after 4 or 5 days, there is an associated fever, trouble breathing, or he/she is looking sick, see your pediatrician to make sure there isn’t an infection in the lungs such as pneumonia or the flu that need specific treatment.
If your child is vomiting or having diarrhea, he/she shouldn’t be in child care. If he/she can’t keep fluids down, looks sick, or is showing signs of dehydration (e.g. decreased urine, tired, no tears), call your pediatrician. Twenty-four hours after the vomiting and diarrhea have resolved, he/she can return to child care, but make sure everyone at home continues to practice good hand-washing techniques as stomach bugs can spread easily and quickly from person to person (parents included!).
A minor sore throat usually isn’t a problem and may just be part of a cold, virus, or even irritation from the weather or using the heater at night. If your child has a more severe sore throat, especially if there is a fever involved or it’s hard to swallow, he/she should be evaluated and tested for strep throat, which often needs antibiotic treatment. After 24 hours on antibiotics, or if antibiotics aren’t needed, 24 hours after your child is feeling better, he/she can return to child care.
If your child has an eye discharge, check with your pediatrician before sending him/her to child care. Pink eye is very contagious! Most cases are viral and no treatment is needed, but if there is colored eye discharge, doctors often assume it is bacterial and prescribe antibiotic eye drops. Your child can return to child care after 24 hours on eye drops and the discharge has cleared.
A rash can be tough to determine. Many things can cause rashes, from dry skin to infections. If the rash is severe, hurts, itches, or is associated with a fever or other illness symptoms, your child’s teacher will call you to come pick your child up. If this happens, you should call your pediatrician.
Those are a few of the many illness symptoms I see every winter in childcare. It’s important to know that if your child has been placed on an antibiotic for any reason, he/she should be on the medication for at least 24 hours before returning to child care.
Often, it's the milder symptoms (such as a slightly runny nose and cough) that leave many parents wondering what to do. Only you can make that game-day decision, but be considerate of others. You might consider, “Would I want another child with the same symptoms around my son or daughter?”
You can always check Caring for Our Children Basics to see the guidelines that Delaware Child Development Center uses when making the decision to call or not to call parents when a child is showing signs of an illness.