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When Your Child Says, 'I'm Sick'

What happens when your child says, "I'm sick"? Do you keep him or her home or send him or her to school?

Following these steps can help you decide and care for your child. First, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will your child need constant care from a grownup?

  • Will the illness make it hard for your child to learn or play?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, keep your child at home. Another consideration is whether your child may make other children sick. But many infections, such as a common cold, are contagious before a child becomes sick, so it may not protect others to stay home after your child is already ill. If you're not sure, call your child's doctor.

Decide if your older child can stay home alone, if need be. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your child mature and old enough to stay home alone?

  • Has your child ever stayed home alone? If so, was your child good and did it go well?

  • Does your child know what to do in an emergency?

If you must leave your child alone, call every few hours to see how he or she is doing. Make sure your child knows where he or she can reach you.

If you stay home with your child, help him or her feel better. Try these tips:

  • Give your child plenty of fluids. This will help prevent him or her from drying out (getting dehydrated).

  • Comfort your child. Hold hands or hug.

  • Play with your child. Do a puzzle, color, or read.

  • Change your child's bedsheets.