Cold and flu season officially starts in November, but John Rodarte, M.D., with Descanso Pediatrics/Huntington Health Physicians in La Cañada Flintridge, says kids going back to school get a jump on the season. “We already are seeing the influx,” he says.
Rodarte warns families that kids starting school for the first time could catch a new illness every couple of weeks. He recommends making sure kids get their flu shots, eat well, get plenty of rest and wash their hands frequently. He also recommends changing kids’ clothes after school to help keep germs at bay at home.
If a child comes home from school with a runny nose or cough, what’s the first thing a parent should do?
Assess how bad this is. Is your child really in distress versus just kind of miserable from being stuffy? That helps deter-mine whether you need to go to the doctor or urgent care or not. If your child’s pretty comfort-able, just stuffy and coughing a little, probably no need to go in.
What are the major reasons to call the doctor’s office or go to urgent care?
If they’re having prolonged fever – fever that’s gone on beyond day three, if they’re in distress with breathing, if they’re not drinking, getting de-hydrated or if there’s a specific complaint, such as sudden earache or a really terrible sore throat along with fever, that’s what’s going to send you in.
What should parents do about fever?
For the most part, having a fever with a virus, especially in the first few days, is OK. It’s just a matter of keeping them comfortable. Parents often ask us, “What number should I be worried about?” And we’ll say that we don’t give you a number. It’s how your child is doing.
Any child who gets a high fever, 103 or 104, they’re going to feel miserable. I’m treating the child feeling miserable as opposed to the number.
When should a child stay home from school?
That’s the golden question. If it’s a mild cough or cold, they probably don’t need to stay home if your child’s pretty comfortable. They should stay home if they’re having a fever. You want to be fever-free for at least 24 hours before going back. If they have vomiting and diarrhea, obviously you want them to stay home. If they’re just really not feeling well, exhausted, being in school is not going to be helpful anyway.
If your child is only mildly ill, what can you do to help them feel better?
Give something like acetaminophen or ibuprofen for any pain or fever. If it’s a really bad runny nose and mucus, sometimes children’s Benadryl can help dry that up. Cough and cold medicines are not recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Keeping a humidifier running to moisten the air, and nasal suctioning to clear mucus, can help.