Here’s the one blog you’ll want to share this year — in hopes that we can create a healthier, safer community if more parents read, take note, and oblige. As pediatricians, we get it more than anyone. Kids get sick. Usually at the most inopportune times; right before a family trip, on the day of a birthday party, on the eve of their favorite holiday. And while we wish there was a magical cure for the common cold, a yucky stomach bug, or those awful cases of Hand, Foot, Mouth…the truth is, unfortunately, there’s not. Sure, we can do our best to treat symptoms, but since we all know childhood illnesses are inevitable in many of these moments, let’s take a pledge.

1. Thou Shalt Not Take Their Too-Sick Child To School

…or a birthday party, friend’s house, school trip, etc. If a child has had a fever (temperature of 100.4 degrees fahrenheit or above) within the past 24 hours, they cannot go to school. If they have a constant running-like-a-faucet nose, they cannot go to school. If they have vomiting, diarrhea, or other stomach bug symptoms, the community around you is really hoping you’ll keep them home. We know…we know…”But it’s so cruel! We can’t miss her best friend’s party!” You are both doing the right thing for your child who needs rest, and all the other children around by keeping your sick child home. Kids do not have the same awareness about hygiene as adults. Sure, we can teach them to cough into their elbow, wash their hands, and use a tissue, but just by nature of being a child, they are going to inevitably spread germs by putting fingers in their mouth/nose, having a lack of personal space, or accidentally sneezing on another child’s lunch. But, hey, they’re kids! They are still learning. Giving them a dose of Tylenol or Motrin and sending them to school doesn’t help anyone. If you are unsure if they should go to school, they should be evaluated by the pediatrician.


2. Thou Shalt Not Get Upset At The Teacher/School For Sending Them Home

If your childcare center or school calls you to pick up your child because he/she is sick, we say, “Bravo!” That means they are doing their job of keeping ALL children safe and healthy. It means they value hygiene and cleanliness, and keep health and safety at the forefront of their mission. You wouldn’t want another contagious child around your child, and if your child is sent home, it’s usually for a pretty good reason. Give your child an extra day or two to rest, and be sure to have them evaluated by a pediatrician if you’re concerned.

3. Honor Thy Pediatrician’s Treatment Plan

100 Fun Ways

After your see your pediatrician, you’re going to get some sort of treatment plan. It could include natural remedies, over-the-counter medicine, or in some instances when needed, prescription medication. We totally get that children can be…a bit of a challenge when it comes to medicine. That’s why we came up with 100 ways to get children to take medicine. Sometimes, we’ll ask you to apply a certain cream four times per day, or suction out a baby’s nose. In some cases with a sick child, you’re going to need to muster up all your courage to make sure the treatment is being done exactly as directed, or it may take a very long time before they turn the corner. By applying the cream only once per day, or not giving them exact dosing or treatment, the issue is not going to resolve and your child is going to be even more miserable. Remember that as a parent, you are doing what’s best, even if it means it’s a struggle to give the treatment. Your child doesn’t realize it, but that’s okay. You’re the parent, and you’ve got to do what’s best.


4. Thou Shalt Not Confuse a Virus With A Bacteria

We don’t like to prescribe antibiotics unless they’re really, truly needed. They can have side effects, and should only be used in certain types of infections when absolutely necessary. Your pediatrician will have seen thousands of sick children in their lifetime and will know how to differentiate symptoms between a cold (virus) and a bacterial infection. Antibiotics will not treat a common cold. 

5. Thou Shalt Buy Trip Insurance

You’re going to get to that little prompt during the booking of your vacation that asks, “Would you like to add trip insurance?” You’re going to pause for a moment, possibly consult your spouse, and you may even have a moment of weakness where you think, “Nah. That’s a waste of money.” We’re here to tell you it’s not. Children have a natural knack for getting sick in that perfect window right before you travel. Do the responsible thing and add trip insurance just in case!

6. Remember That A Fever Is The Body’s Natural Way of Fighting Infection

Fevers (a temperature of 100.4 or above) don’t scare us (unless your child is less than 3 months of age… that’s an emergency), because we know the human body is doing exactly what it needs to do in order to fight off infection. We treat the symptoms of a fever (achiness, fussiness, etc.), not the number of the fever. So whether it’s a temperature of 101 or 104, if your child is not miserable, you don’t necessarily need to do anything. On the contrary, whether it’s a 101 or 104 and you have a miserable, achy child, then you’re going to treat the symptoms of the fever with Tylenol or Motrin. Always check with your pediatrician before giving your child any medication to be sure of proper dosing.


7. Thou Shalt Keep Newborn Babies In A Bubble {Figuratively}

Anytime a baby under the age of 3 months gets a fever (a temperature of 100.4 or above), it’s an automatic trip to the Emergency Room. After the 3 month mark, we still monitor the illness, but it’s not longer as big of an issue and the ER is typically not necessary. That is why we want to do our best to keep newborn babies under the age of 3 months in a bubble. We recommend taking them out on neighborhood walks to get fresh air, but we very kindly ask that you do not bring them to a crowded festival, a busy restaurant, or Disney World. Taking them out and about in crowded places too early heightens their risk greatly for getting sick. Only healthy friends and relatives should be around young babies, and absolutely everyone should wash their hands before touching or holding the baby.


8. Thou Shalt Remember That Sick Children Need TLC Above All Else

We know how hard you have worked to get your 8 month old on a schedule. The naps, the eating, bedtime…it’s insanely hard work! But remember, when your child gets sick, all scheduling goes out the window. In older children, they may have to miss a soccer game or a field trip, but good old-fashioned TLC is the best medicine! Keep things in perspective and realize that schedules may change, but they will go back to they way they were.

9. Not All Medicines Are Created Equal

It may shock you to learn that many over-the-counter “natural” medicines or vitamins can actually be harmful to your child. Always check with your pediatrician before giving ANY medication of any kind to your child. Did you know there is no oversight by the FDA over the vitamin industry? Giving your child a vitamin or other “natural remedy” sold on the shelf may have extremely dangerous side effects. It’s the reason that Hyland’s Teething Tablets were sold on the shelves and are a HUGE NO-NO due to the belladonna “natural” ingredient which can cause death in babies. Do not assume that any vitamin or natural remedy sold on a shelf is safe. Always check with your pediatrician first. Keep in mind that the best natural remedies are the true natural remedies…the ones made by you at home: a frozen washcloth for teething, a chicken noodle soup for a child’s cold, or a fresh fruit smoothie packed with fresh fruits and vegetables instead of a vitamin tablet!

10. Thou Shalt Wash Your Hands, Wash Your Child’s Hands, And Then Wash Your Hands Again

The top 10 carriers for colds/flu are your fingers! You can’t wash your hands enough. Take the time to make sure your child actually knows how to properly lather up soap (and sing the Happy Birthday song twice…the perfect time length for hand washing), and make sure you never miss a beat when it comes to getting them to wash before mealtime, after using the bathroom, and a whole bunch in between!