All children regularly come down with illnesses, and some are more significant than others. The more children you have, or the more regularly your child comes into contact with other children (whether at school, day care, preschool or playgrounds) the more likely that your home will see its fair share of childhood illness. And if that’s the case – when are they too sick to go out, and when is it ok to load them up with tissues and carry on regardless?
You’re going to see a lot of children’s illness in your time as a parent (and the more children you have, the more it will seem that somebody is always sick) – and at certain times of the year, illness in your household can seem relentless. The more cabin fever takes hold at your place, and the more low-grade sniffles are around, the more likely you are to ask yourself just how sick your child needs to be to stay home from playgroup, day care, school, or that birthday party that everyone was looking forward to.
And like all great questions of life, the answer is – it depends. The vast majority of children’s illnesses can be loosely divided into two categories – contagious and non-contagious. Some of them are easy to make decisions about. A fever, while not contagious, is probably a sign of an illness, and your child will be too ill to do anything much. Stay home.
Ear infections and headaches aren’t contagious, but it might not be worth your while to head out with a child who’s feeling so rotten. A similar situation is the random tummy ache that comes and goes, but without nausea. Could they just be constipated? Give them some sultanas and head out anyway.
Then there are some illnesses that are a definite no-no for time out (especially if you want to keep your friendships intact) – vomiting bugs, conjunctivitis and severe coughs will not get you any brownie points if you give them to your friends and their children. Likewise, head lice – it’s not an illness, and the downside is your child will feel great and have plenty of energy to burn – but until you’ve treated it, it may be best to keep them at home.
When to contact your doctor
You should see a doctor if your child has a fever and any of the following, or if you’re concerned for any other reason:
- the child is younger than three months
- the fever persists for more than 24 hours
- the fever doesn’t respond to paracetamol
- the child refuses to drink or wees less often (indicating possible dehydration)
- they have an earache
- they keep vomiting or have frequent bouts of diarrhoea
- they are very pale or weak
- they are unusually sleepy or drowsy
- they complain of a stiff neck, persistent headache or light hurting their eyes
- they are screaming, very irritable and unable to be consoled.
When is it an emergency?
You should take your child to hospital or call 000 for an ambulance if:
- they have severe vomiting and can’t keep down any fluids
- they have difficulty swallowing
- they have fast breathing or difficulty breathing
- they have a bulging fontanelle (the soft spot on the head in babies)
- they are having fits or convulsions (jerky, uncontrollable movements)
- they are unconscious (you can’t wake them up)
- they have a fever and their neck seems very stiff or rigid.
- they have a fever together with a rash.
We’ve teamed up with Children’s Panadol to provide you with lots of quick and helpful reads covering all aspects of children’s health and development, including tips on how to tackle these ailments.
If you have an unwell or sad child at home, Children’s Panadol also has a great new interactive website called Buddy Bear that you can use to cheer your child up when they’re upset or need to take medicine. You can personalise it so Buddy Bear can call out your child’s name and sing their favourite nursery rhyme, which they’re sure to love. And for more parenting and children’s health hacks, download The First Five Years, Children’s Panadol’s free book full of information about children aged birth to five.
(This is a sponsored post for Children’s Panadol)