With school back in session, it probably won't be long before children are coming home with sniffles and sore throats. The average child gets six or more infections each year, reports Dr. Jacqueline Kaari, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Osteopathic Medicine, who also offers advice.
"Every parent has experienced it — the hectic morning maneuvering of getting the household fed, dressed and out the door is suddenly interrupted by an inconsolable child who has a sore throat, upset stomach, sniffles or something worse," she said. "When that happens, parents need to be able to quickly assess their child and determine if he or she is well enough to go to school or needs to stay home, or if it's time to call the pediatrician. Sometimes, parents will guess wrong, but if there's one rule of thumb, it should be to always err on the side of caution."
Kaari recommends the following guidelines for what do when it comes to:
Colds: Use child-strength, over-the-counter medicines and a cool mist humidifier to treat symptoms. Because they are caused by viruses, do not treat colds with antibiotics. Children can go to school if the symptoms won't impede them from participating in school activities.
Conjunctivitis (pinkeye): Go to the doctor for treatment, which is generally antibiotic eye drops. Children can usually go to school 24 to 48 hours after treatment starts.
Fever: Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for low-grade fevers. Have the child drink lots of fluids and avoid fatty or fried foods, since fevers decrease stomach activity and make digestion more difficult. Keep children at home if the fever is above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Call the doctor if a high fever lasts more than 24 hours or does not respond to medicine.
Flu: Have the child vaccinated. If he or she has not been vaccinated, keep the child home for several days and make sure he or she gets lots of rest and drinks lots of fluids.
Head lice: Kill with over-the-counter or prescription lotions and shampoos. Keep the child at home until all lice have been killed.
Ringworm: Look for small patches of skin that are scaly and red. They can also blister and ooze. Apply anti-fungal ointments or powders. Call the doctor if the infection is severe or does not go away.
Sore throat: If parents suspect strep throat, they should call the doctor. If drinking water relieves symptoms somewhat, the child likely has a viral infection that should go away in a few days.
Stomach ache: Children who have been vomiting should stay home from school. An hour after the child vomits, parents should start introducing small drinks of water. Clear liquids and bland food should be introduced throughout the day. If vomiting lasts more than 24 hours or if the child vomits blood or green or yellow bile, call the doctor.
Whooping cough (pertussis): Have the child vaccinated. If parents suspect whooping cough, characterized by a "whooping" sound when the child tries to breathe, call the doctor. (Read more)