Is My Child Too Sick For School?

According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC). the common cold is the main reason for school absences each year. Additionally, about 40 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17, missed three or more school days this past year because of illness or injury.

It’s often hard to draw a line on when to send your kid back to school after he has been sick and when to keep him home an extra day.

“Kids should stay home, if they have fevers over 100.5 degrees,” say CDC officials. “Then, the child should stay home until 24 hours without a fever have passed.”

Children also need to stay away from school if they need regular, special attention, for example if they are throwing up, need to take multiple naps throughout the day, or are on a nebulizer treatment. Staying home from school when the child is experiencing the above symptoms, not only helps the child get better faster, but also spares fellow students from catching various bugs.

CDC officials point out symptoms that children can have and still attend school.

Safe symptoms: 

  • Have a cold, but no fever
  • Runny nose or cough is present: Just make sure to wash hands frequently!
  • Green snot: Contrary to popular belief, the presence of green mucous does not mean a child is sick, it actually is a sign he is getting better.
  • Eating normally
  • Child is energetic

“Of course there are tons of different types of illnesses, each with their own exclusion criteria, but they are so individualized. Just makes sure to ask your child’s healthcare provider if you have any questions,” say officials. “And make sure you ask when your child can go back.”

Advertisements

Back To School Transition!

For a smooth back-to-school transition, make sure you talk to your child about the transition, identify potential stressors and try a “dress rehearsal” to get them used to the routine.

Transitions, regardless of whether they are wanted or not, are challenging! Although many children will say that they look forward to going back to school, the transition can bring about stress that parents might not expect. For instance, kids might become clingy, moody or irritable if they have anxiety about leaving a school or teacher or starting something new in the fall.

Ways to help ensure a smooth back-to-school transition

  1. Talk to your child. Your child may appreciate that you recognize that these transitions, even if welcome, are not easy. It might also help them to identify where some of their negative feelings are coming from. For younger kids, read books about ending or starting school (for example, Franklin, Berenstain Bears, etc.) or let them draw pictures about their experience or feelings or act out scenarios with toys/dolls. For older kids, listen carefully without judging or trying to solve the problem. If your child does not want to discuss it, don’t force them to, but let them know you are ready to listen anytime they want to talk.
  2. Identify stressors and make small changes to help. For example, if your child is bored by the slower pace of summer, schedule some activities or find a way to create more structure. If your child is anxious about leaving old friends behind or making new friends, set up social activities with friends from a previous class or a new class.
  3. Try a “dress rehearsal” to get them used to the routine or the new location, building or classroom. Let them check it out ahead of time and talk about what it will be like. Remind them it can be hard at first but that it will get easier and you will be there to help them. Remind them of how nervous they were the previous year and praise them for how they adjusted then.

As with so many issues, listening openly and warmly to your child’s concerns without making them feel bad, embarrassed or that they are complaining too much is important. Although some of these issues may seem small to parents, they feel very big to kids.

Heat Illnesses In Children

On a hot and sunny summer day, the last thing a child wants to think about is sitting in the shade. Kids produce more heat during activities and sweat less, which is why they are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses, especially on hot, humid days.

Parents can help to avoid heat-related illnesses by making sure their children are wearing the right clothes for hot weather and drinking plenty of water.

Parents should also keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep kids in light colors
  • Wear loose fitting, cotton clothing
  • Wear a wide brim hat, preferably with ventilation
  • Stay hydrated

According to the Children’s National Health Systemheat-related illnesses exist on a spectrum, ranging from heat cramps to heat stroke. Below we explain some common heat-related illnesses, along with symptoms and treatment recommendations.

What are heat cramps?

Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat-related illness and the first sign of trouble. Symptoms include:

  • Painful cramps, especially in the legs
  • Moist, flushed skin

If your child is experiencing the effects of heat cramps, there are a few ways to treat them:

  • Move the child to a cool place and rest
  • Remove excess clothing and place cool clothes on the skin (you can fan the skin too)
  • Give the child cool sports drinks containing salt and sugar, such as Gatorade
  • Stretch cramped muscles slowly and gently

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion is more severe than heat cramps and happens when water and salt lost from the body through excessive sweating is not replaced with enough fluid. When a child’s body is unable to cool down, he or she may feel these symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Pale, moist skin
  • A fever higher than 100.4°
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety, and faint feeling

The treatment for heat exhaustion is similar to that for heat cramps, but the fever heightens the need for further medical attention:

  • Move the child to a cool place and rest
  • Remove excess clothing and place cool clothes on the skin (you can fan the skin too)
  • Give the child cool sports drinks containing salt and sugar, such as Gatorade
  • Stretch cramped muscles slowly and gently
  • If there is no improvement or your child is unable to take fluids, call your child’s physician or take your child to an emergency department immediately. IV (intravenous) fluids may be needed.

What is heat stroke?

Heat stroke is the most severe heat-related illness and occurs when the body becomes overwhelmed by excessive heat and can no longer regulate temperature. Dr. Cohen says you can tell when a child is in danger of heat stroke when there is no sweat and the skin is dry. Children experiencing these life-threatening symptoms need medical attention:

  • Warm, dry skin
  • High fever, usually over 104º F
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Lethargy
  • Stupor
  • Seizures, coma, and death are possible

If your child is experiencing heat stroke, these are the steps you should take to treat them:

  • Move to a cool place and rest
  • Call 911 or your local emergency medical service. Heat stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency and needs to be treated by a physician
  • Remove excess clothing and drench skin with cool water; fan skin
  • Place ice bags on the armpits and groin areas
  • Offer cool fluids if alert and able to drink

 

Water Fears

Whether it’s on the beach or at the pool, many kids spend time engaged in water activities over their summer break. For most children, this is cause for celebration. But for some, these activities can cause a lot of anxiety. A fear of water can develop for many reasons, including:

  • A naturally anxious temperament
  • Seeing parents or friends who are afraid of water
  • A bad experience
  • Exposure to news of events like shark attacks or other children drowning

It is important to foster a healthy sense of respect and regard for water in your child, as there can be some risk of injury or death to children around water.  How do parents do this without creating fear in their children that prevents them from enjoying water sports and other activities? And, how can parents help a child who is afraid of the water?

First of all, it is important to talk to kids about how water can, and should be, a lot of fun, but that it can also be dangerous if kids don’t follow basic rules. Have a family meeting about rules around the water. Rules can include: always letting an adult know when you are going in the water and checking in when you get out of the water. You should emphasize that the pool rules (no running, no diving, etc.) should always be followed or the child must leave the pool immediately. For parents, make sure your kids are properly supervised to their level of ability in the water. Even with all these rules, it is important to convey to your children that they can have fun and be safe around the water.

If you have a child who is scared of water, don’t belittle them or tell them “not to worry.” Ask them what they are afraid of and let them know their feelings are okay.  It can be helpful to teach kids that their fear levels sometimes get out of whack, like a smoke alarm. If their fear (or what I call a “danger detector”) is set to go off too easily, they may miss out on some things that are actually safe and fun. This can happen with a fear of water. Let your child know that as a team, you can reset their danger detector.

To do this, encourage your child to get used to the water gradually and together. For instance, start with putting toes in. Praise them for trying! Next, put feet in, and so on. Keep praising, reassuring, and helping your child calm his or her fears through breathing or distraction. Sometimes it helps to remind them that the scary feelings, such as their heart beating fast or butterflies in their stomach, is just their danger detector going off and they have to use their brain to remind their body that it is okay! Tell them what a great job they are doing. Little by little, they may be able to work through their fear. If you need to use rewards, that can work too. For example, if they can stand in knee-deep water in the pool for a minute, they can get a nickel, or be allowed to play a favorite game for five minutes.

If your own efforts are not working and the child’s fear of water is getting in the way of family fun, a psychologist with expertise in treating specific phobias may be able to help.

Is My Child Ready For Camp?

Lots of kids love sleepaway camp. But how do you know when your child is ready for camp?

Generally, children are ready for an overnight camp between 8-10 years of age. Parents know their children best and should know if they are mature enough to handle it. A shorter, “trial” camp is often a good route for first-time campers.

Some indicators that your child may be ready:

  • He can get himself dressed, teeth and hair brushed and show some independence during daily routines
  • She has had a successful sleepover at a friend’s house
  • Your child is able to verbalize concerns to an adult comfortably

Benefits of summer camps

  • Provide opportunities to develop maturity and independence
  • Promote flexibility, problem solving and social skills (in a fun setting)
  • Specialty camps – for specific sports, interests or children with specific diseases – offer a way for kids to gain new skills with kids who have similar interests.

Talk with your child about camp

Include him in the decision-making process to find a camp that’s right. Schedule a tour of the camp ahead of time if you can.

Another tip is to talk with your child about specific scenarios and how to handle them. What if she doesn’t like the food one day? Or if she’s feeling sick? Counselors are trained to handle these situations so encourage them to confide in a camp counselor.

Manage your own expectations – and emotions!

Many children have a great time at camp and often forget to call or write home every day. And if they do, you should be prepared to hear a range of emotions. If your child is upset, be supportive – but don’t give him an easy out to come home. Everyone has bad days, and learning to cope with them is part of the experience.

Telling your child that you have confidence in them to succeed at camp is also important. Also, kids pick up on adults’ social cues, so if you’re anxious about camp, try not to show it!

Button Batteries

As we all know, young children have a tendency to put random objects in their mouths. They are particularly drawn to colorful and shiny objects, including button batteries which are about the size of a small coin. Unfortunately, these tiny batteries can cause major injuries, or even death, if ingested.

Due to advances in technology, lithium button batteries are becoming more and more prevalent. They are commonly used in everyday household items such as car remote controls, hearing aids, calculators, children’s toys, scales and television remotes. This has led to remarkable rates of button battery ingestions – over 3,000 are reported in the U.S. annually.

When swallowed, button batteries pose a high risk for injury and complications – including death – because of the chemical reaction they can cause in the esophagus, or food pipe. The esophagus is located near several other important structures in the body, like the aorta (main blood vessel leaving the heart) and the trachea (windpipe), and the chemical reaction caused by the battery can cause the lining of the esophagus to erode. If the battery is not removed promptly, the erosion can cause the esophagus to connect to the trachea or aorta leading to bleeding or difficulty breathing.

What can parents do about button batteries?

Like with most health issues, prevention is key. Button batteries may seem relatively harmless; however they must be kept securely away from children. In the event of an accidental ingestion, you should first call 9-1-1 and then poison control (1-800-222-1222).

There are also some things you can do to reduce the risk of serious injury while waiting for the ambulance.

Recent studies have shown that a coating substance can protect the esophagus from the damage caused by the chemical reaction from the battery. A medication called carafate can provide this protection, but unfortunately it is only available from physicians. However, honey is a common household product which has similar protective properties.

If possible, and if the child is able to swallow, give 10 mL (2 tsp) of honey by mouth to children older than 12 months every 10 minutes, up to 3 doses. Children under 12 months of age are at risk for serious infections from unpasteurized honey and should not be given honey.

Do not give honey if the battery was possibly in the esophagus for more than 12 hours. Honey administration is not a substitute for emergent battery removal. It can slow tissue damage, but it does not completely prevent it from occurring. Battery removal should not be delayed because a patient has eaten recently or because a patient was given honey or carafate by mouth.

Remember: swallowing a button battery is a medical emergency, and it should be dealt with immediately.

Healthy Eating and the Immune System

You can probably feel it coming: A scratchy throat, a cough that just won’t quit and that tired, achy feeling. I work with families every day to guide them toward healthy choices that help children grow up stronger. One of the most common questions parents ask me throughout the winter months is, “How can I keep my children from catching a cold or the flu this season?” While warding off sickness requires a daily commitment to healthy choices beyond just nutrition – such as staying active and exercising, getting enough sleep and washing your hands regularly – eating a well-balanced, colorful diet can also help you avoid common pitfalls.

Channel your inner Bobby Flay or Julia Child

By including children in snack and meal prep, choosing healthy foods can be fun. Set up a make-your-own smoothie station for kids to invent new smoothie flavors using low-fat dairy yogurt and their favorite fruits and vegetables. Strawberries are loaded with vitamin C and are easy to grab from the frozen section of the grocery store. Or pretend to be a famous Italian chef, cooking up mini-pizzas made with whole grain English muffins or pita bread, sauce and low-fat cheese. Top with veggies like spinach for vitamin E or red bell pepper slices for vitamin A.

Turn water into a sweet treat

Water is the cornerstone of a healthy immune system. It transports nutrients and oxygen to cells throughout the body, and it carries away waste products and toxins. But getting children to drink the recommended amount of water each day – approximately 5 to 10 cups based on age – can be daunting. Turn up the flavor and make water a sweet treat by freezing strawberries, blueberries and other fruit into ice cubes or using an infuser.

Be on the lookout for these missing colors

Many families don’t have trouble getting enough starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn, but as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate tool points out, we all need to focus on eating more dark green, red and orange vegetables. These veggies give us fiber, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to keep our bodies and immune systems healthy. For example, dark green vegetables can provide vitamin K, folic acid, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids. Red and orange vegetables also can be great sources of powerful antioxidants, such as lycopene and beta carotene. Turn capturing these nutrients into an activity by making a veggie skewers workshop and encouraging kids to assemble the most colorful mix of vegetables possible.

Avoid chugging orange juice

Unfortunately, a mega-dose of a nutrient won’t have a magical effect on the immune system. If you don’t have deficiencies, there is no evidence that taking extra amounts of any vitamin will protect you. Instead, take small steps every day to keep your family healthy and make sure you’re getting the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. It’s likely more enjoyable than chugging orange juice and will help keep your immune system strong.