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Too Sick for School or Faking It?

You’re getting The Look complete with The Moans and The Groans. Use this guide to help determine if your child really needs to stay home.
 

Learning Benefits

The Complaint: "Feel me! I'm really hot!"
Back to Bed: If the thermometer reads 100.4 degrees or higher, keep her home until she’s been fever free (without meds) for 24 hours.
Off to Class: No temperature and no other symptoms.

PLUS: 4 FAST FEVER FACTS


The Complaint: "My belly hurts."
Back to Bed: She’s vomiting or has diarrhea; both could signal a stomach bug. If she has pain on the lower right side of her belly and a fever, call your doc.
Off to Class: If she has no visible symptoms, she may have an upset stomach; eating breakfast can help settle it. A bathroom trip might be in order, too.

PLUS: STOMACH ACHE DECODER

The Complaint: “I...hack!...can’t stop...hack! hack!...coughing.”
Back to Bed: The cough sounds like it’s coming from his chest and produces phlegm. He could have bronchitis or another respiratory illness.
Off to Class: It’s a dry cough. Give him a drink of water and see if it goes away. Allergies may be the cause.

PLUS: IS IT A COLD OR THE FLU?

The Complaint: “My throat is sore.”
Back to Bed: He has other symptoms, like a fever or swollen glands. Have the pediatrician test him for strep.
Off to Class: He’s had it less than 48 hours and doesn’t have any other symptoms.

The Complaint: “I can’t stop rubbing my eyes.”
Back to Bed: There’s discharge. Keep him home for at least 48 hours. If his eyes are crusty or stuck together, it’s likely pink eye and he may need antibiotics.
Off to Class: His eyes are just irritated. Have him apply a cold wet washcloth.

PLUS: SPOTTING PINK EYE SYMPTOMS

Is She Faking It?
If you have a hunch that your child isn’t truly sick, these three tips can help you break the case:

Suss out school troubles.
If your child is insisting on staying home despite seeming fine, a school issue might be the cause. Ask her if she’s stressed about an assignment or having a problem with friends.

Remind her that there won’t be fun and games.
Explain that if she stays home sick from school, she’ll be resting — no video games, no playdates. Fakers often experience a miraculous recovery at this point!

Be tricky. See if you can distract her. A slight headache? Have her drink water and eat a snack while telling her all about the fun activity you have planned for after school. The mysterious pain might just disappear.

Source: June Samuels, R.N., a school nurse coordinator in Huntington, New York
Illustrations by Federico Jordán; Photo Credit: Kirstie Tweed/Corbis

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