So your kid wakes up and says she feels sick. You take her temp. It’s normal. You look for snot and ask if any other unusual body fluids have been released. You examine her for paleness, lethargy and swollen lymph nodes. None of these are present, but she’s still complaining. Do you send her to school or not?
Unless my kid has clear medical symptoms, my answer is “yes.”
Though I recently learned it’s not always such a clear-cut decision.
Our boy contracted one of those sudden onset gastro-intestinal bugs last week. It came on at a public park no less (thanks to Cheryl for providing towels, bucket and transportation from the park to our home. Sometimes it’s great to know half the folks in town).
I kept him home from school the next day, although he seemed fine after the initial hour or so of emesis. In fact, he was furious at me because I wouldn’t let him have any screen time. My rule is if you’re too sick for school, you’re too sick for video games. You can read, but no DS or computer time. Sorry, but that’s not recuperative.
The next morning, the boy was still a bit off his feed, but otherwise frisky. So I told him he was going to school. At which point, he went into the bathroom and spent several minutes loudly retching over the toilet.
Enviro-spouse and I stood outside the bathroom door and rolled our eyes. Yes, the acting lessons have paid off. Hats off to the Asheville Arts Center.
Remember the scene from E.T. when Elliott’s mom leaves the room, and he puts the mercury end of the thermometer next to the light bulb, then quickly pops it back in his mouth just as she returns? My son’s seeming deception wasn’t quite at that level, but it was close.
I pulled my boy out of the bathroom and took him to school.
Inevitably, a few hours later, I got a call from one of the school secretaries. He’d been complaining of stomach pains all morning, and then he spent recess prone on the grass. I figured this was either high melodrama or the virus was still in residence. Probably the latter, because only true weakness or pain could keep that kid from enjoying recess.
So I picked him up early from school. But he seemed OK, except he hadn’t eaten much, and he later refused dinner. This from a 75-pound kid who often consumes more calories a day than his 175-pound Dad. Luckily, it was Friday, so I didn’t have to decide whether or not to send him to school the next day.
As these things go, Sunday morning, the girl came down with the same horrendous sickness. Except her bout was much worse. She had it coming out both ends from about 2 to 7 a.m.
She clearly was in worse shape than the boy had been for the next few days. I then had to admit that I probably shouldn’t have sent him back to school so soon. Even though he wasn’t acting particularly ill, I imagine it took a few extra days for those killer blood cells to do their work on the offending virus. And for some reason, whether her age or general constitution, my girl was more susceptible to feeling rotten until the virus burnt itself out.
The sick day decision can be a tough call. Buncombe County Health Departments send out a flyer on this subject at the beginning of every school year. They ask that a kid be fever-free and barf-free for at least 24 hours before returning to school.
OK. I admit I’ve sent my kids back before the designated time limit, as I’m guessing have many parents. I mean, what if it’s been 16 hours? Should the kid miss two days of school instead of one because it’s been 20 hours instead of 24? Also, there are the issues both of kids missing academic time and parents losing out on work time.
That said, WebMD tells me that about 10 percent of kids will pull a Ferris Bueller at some point during their school careers. And that seems like a low percentage to me.
I suppose the responsible answer is to keep kids at home if you think there’s any chance of them being contagious or if they seem to need more recovery time. And somehow come up with a better home test for budding actors.