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Five Reasons to Keep Your Child Home from School
By Dr. Kendall Erdahl, CMH Regional Health System

“Mom, my throat hurts!”

“Dad, I think I have a fever!”

Decoding the difference between real illnesses and not so real ones can be a challenge. However, there are several valid reasons to keep your child at home. Here are five of the most common reasons.

Chicken Pox

This ailment is caused by the varicella zoster virus and is highly contagious. The rash starts on the face or torso and spreads to the extremities. New lesions will occur for three to five days after start of the rash. The blisters break and crust over after about three days at which point your child is no longer contagious. The rash will usually last about one week.

It is important to make sure your child does not scratch the lesions as they can become infected and make the problem worse and cause scarring. There is no further treatment for this disease, but if you are concerned, please make an appointment to see your health care provider. The chicken pox vaccination is now required for all school aged children in Ohio.

Fever

It can be defined as a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and may be a sign of a bacterial or viral infection. It is one of the body’s many defense mechanisms for protecting itself against serious illnesses, making a good thermometer a valuable purchase.

If your child does have a fever, over the counter Tylenol is the best way to treat it and make him/her feel better. Also, the height of the fever may not correlate with the seriousness of the infection. Your child should be safe to return to school when their temperature has been less than 100.4 degrees for 24 hours.

Head Lice

This is a parasitic infection affecting up to 12 million people around the world annually. Contrary to popular belief, lice can infect anyone and does not have a preference for those who are unclean or come from a lower economic class.

Kids aged 3 to 10 are most likely to have head lice associated with close contact while playing or by sharing hats. Girls are more likely to get it than boys because of longer hair. Caucasians are more likely to get lice than other racial groups.

Over the counter shampoos and head lice combs are an effective way to treat your children. Don’t worry about your pets. Head lice feed specifically on human blood and can only survive about 24 hours off a human.

You should, however, vacuum your carpets and wash your linens in hot water, but it is not a necessity to scour the rest of your house.

Pink Eye

This is a potentially serious viral or bacterial infection affecting the eye and surrounding soft tissues. It is characterized by excessive discharge from the eye. In many cases, your child will wake up with their affected eye matted shut.

Looking at the eye, the sclera (the white part) will be red and look irritated. This is an illness that should be seen by a physician to ensure that the child’s vision is not compromised. It may require a prescription.

Strep Throat

This illness is caused by bacteria, Group A Streptococcus. It usually presents with severe throat pain without a cough, and swollen tonsils with white or yellow patches on them. Most children also have swollen lymph nodes in their necks.

Strep throat usually will resolve in about three days, but needs to be treated with antibiotics to prevent some serious complications such as rheumatic heart disease.

The common cold or the flu also involves a sore throat but is also accompanied by other symptoms such as a stuffy nose and cough. These are viral illnesses and do not require or even respond to treatment with antibiotics.

You Decide and Be Aware

So as you decide whether or not to send your child to school, be aware that if they complain of an ailment, they may have a potentially highly contagious disease and may need to stay home.

There is an off chance though, that they didn’t finish their homework the night before or have a big test. Hopefully, this article will serve as a guide to help differentiate between the real illnesses and less serious or not so real ones.

Parents and other responsible adults are the first line of defense against widespread illnesses at school. Please help us keep your child and the other children at school safe and healthy this year.


Dr. Erdahl

Dr. Erdahl is a second year resident physician at the CMH Family Medicine Residency Program. Healthy Outlook, a periodic offering of CMH, includes information from several resources including the writer’s professional experience.