This time of year has many parents wondering, “is it allergies or is it a cold?” If you’re like most working parents you shrug it off as allergies, drop your kiddo off at daycare and don’t think about it again… until it’s 2:00 AM and your child has a fever (of course). After your little one seems to have turned a corner and the fever has broke it may leave you wondering if they are still contagious.
We’ve Been There
At Diablo Family Physicians we are parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents who understand that the everyday working parent can’t take off too much time from work due to a sick child at home. The pressure is on to return to work with no other option but for you to drop your child back off at school. In the back of every parent’s mind is the well-being of your child and not wanting to be “that parent”. If you’re unsure if your child is still contagious here are some good guidelines to follow when trying to decide if everyone should take another sick day.
Guidelines for Being Contagious
Children with Stomach Bugs
For the child who has had vomiting and diarrhea with or without fever, consider returning to school once the child no longer has a fever, is eating and drinking normally, is pain free and not needing to go for extended bathroom trips more than once or twice a day. The stools do not need to be completely back to normal, but they do need to be easily managed by a busy daycare staff. For a toilet trained child, consider returning after they can easily manage their urinary and bowel habits.
Children with Runny Noses
This one is particularly popular since it seems like runny noses take forever to clear up. Consider returning to school once they no longer have a fever and after the sneezing and constant mucus has slowed down. For most toddlers, this is 2-4 days into an illness but can be longer. You would want to keep children that are still experiencing a runny nose at home because viruses are easily spread by touching surfaces that have also come into contact with mucous or saliva (read: runny nose are really contagious).
Children with Fever and No Other Symptoms
For the child with a fever but few or no symptoms, consider returning after the fever has been gone for 24 hours and after the child is feeling back to normal. It is ok to treat your child with acetaminophen for fever, but don’t treat them with acetaminophen and then send them to school or daycare. It is likely that they are fighting something that could be contagious, and your child’s fever may return leaving them feeling worse. It is best to let them stay home and rest.
If you are still unsure, trust your instincts. You know what your child’s baseline is better than anyone else.