Guide for Fever Diagnosis and Treatment

Too Sick for Daycare?

If your child is in daycare, you've probably wondered more than once whether you should keep him home or send him to school when he is feverish. The answer: It depends. National guidelines state that a feverish child with no other symptoms should not be excluded, but childcare centers are free to establish more stringent rules, such as a 24-hour fever-free requirement.

When you enrolled your child in the program, you should have received the center's policy regarding sick children. That's your starting point. Is your daycare center one of those that refuses to allow feverish children? If so, there's little you can do. "When you enroll your child in a center, you agree to those rules, so I would encourage parents to ask centers about sick policies when shopping around," says Kristen Copeland, MD, assistant professor of general pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

So what about giving your child a fever reducer in the morning and hoping the fever doesn't return? Parents do it, Dr. Copeland says, and childcare providers know that they do it. But expect a phone call if the medication isn't enough to help the child function throughout the day. It's not only a matter of containing germs -- a sick child needs more time from caregivers, which threatens the health and safety of other kids. "You can't have a childcare provider in one room caring for your kid while the rest of the class is out playing," says Dr. Copeland, who led a study on whether pediatricians, parents, and childcare providers follow national illness-exclusion guidelines.

The bottom line: A child who can't comfortably participate in planned activities, whether or not your daycare has a fever policy, shouldn't go to childcare, says Dr. Copeland.

Not All Fevers Are Bad

Watching your child suffer through an illness is never easy. But getting sick is just one part of growing up -- and an important one. Fever is a response to an infection, not a disease in itself. So when the body raises its thermostat, it is using one of its weapons in the war against viruses and bacteria. White blood cells and the other disease-fighting agents of our immune system kick into high gear. Each time they battle an infection, our immune system gets stronger and is better able to fend off the next attack.

Cynthia Ramnarace, a freelance writer and mom to Mira, lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, January 2007.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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