Often deciphering when a child is getting sick can be tricky, so too can deciding how long to keep him or her from school. This is insurmountably harder when your child is under eight and not yet able to fully articulate how they truly feel. It is our job as parents to know how they feel and to know how to make them better. Here are some signs that your child is getting sick and tips for soothing them:
1. Being more tired than usual. One major symptom of most illnesses is lethargy. If your child falls asleep early or begins to lay about you can assume his/her body is fighting off a virus or bacteria. Take your cues from them allow them the opportunity to get the much needed rest. Ballet and soccer will still be there the next week.
2. Cranky behavior or random outbursts. Another common symptom of cold and flu is irritability. This can stem from the body aches, nausea, headaches, or overall malaise that sickness can cause. Be understanding and patient, as challenging behavior may be the only means your child has to communicate that he or she is feeling sick.
3. Red in the face. Children will become flushed at the onset of a fever. Rule out external factors like too much clothing or a hot environment as the cause first and follow-up by checking your child's temperature.
4. Picky eating. Loosing one's appetite can be another symptom of not feeling well. If you child turns down their favorite treat or only eats a few bites of a meal they normally devour chances are they are sick.
5. "My tummy/stomach hurts or my head hurts." Viral infections often cause headaches, vomiting, or diarrhea. Take these statements seriously but take note that these may be immediately followed by vomiting or crying as children often are still developing body awareness and function in the moment. After the bout of vomiting is over make sure to acknowledge that it was probably scary for them and that you to do not like it when it happens to you. The more you talk about it the less abstract and scary the incident will be for them.
Remember you know your child and can tell when something is not quite right. Trust your instincts.
Please find below a few articles that provide further guidance on the topic:
Caring for a Child with a Viral Infection
Is My Child Too Sick for School?
Too Sick for School?