What To Look Out For When Taking Care Of A Sick Child At Home

source – Illinois Early Learning Project

You’ve been home ill for a few days and can only watch so much Netflix. You’re all set to return to work. How long should you remain at home if you have a cold or the flu, and when should you return to your routine?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 25th Feb 2022.

What To Look Out For When Taking Care Of A Sick Child At Home

How Long to Stay Home

Experts recommend staying at home with a cold or the flu because you may be infectious if you have severe symptoms such as a cough with mucus, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or tiredness. And, unless you need to leave the house for medical treatment or other urgent reasons, the CDC advises remaining at home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone away.

Another reason to take it easy when unwell is that rest is essential for recovering from any sickness.

How fast you recover from a cold or the flu is determined by your overall health. In most cases, healthy individuals recover from a cold in 7 to 10 days. The flu symptoms, including fever, should go away in about five days, although you may still have a cough and feel weak for other several days. Within 1 to 2 weeks, all of your symptoms should be gone.

When you return to work or school, be sure to cough into your elbow and wash your hands often to avoid spreading the sickness to others.

In individuals with weakened immune systems, asthma, or other respiratory problems, these viruses may cause severe pneumonia. As a result, if you have a chronic disease, your recovery duration may vary.

How Colds and Flu Spread

The first 2 to 4 days following the onset of symptoms are the most contagious. They can, however, spread for up to a few weeks after that. You may not realise you're sick until 2 to 3 days after you've been infected since your symptoms typically appear 2 to 3 days after you've been infected.

You may spread your cold to others just by being in their company. Sneezes and coughs may carry virus particles up to 12 feet, where they can fall in someone's mouth or nose or be absorbed into the lungs. Others may get your cold if they come into contact with you or anything you've touched and then touch their mouth or nose.

Like the ordinary cold, the flu is caused by a virus spreading through coughs, sneezes, and even talking. Droplets may be sent up to 6 feet distant as a result of these activities. It's also possible to get the flu by touching anything infected with the virus and then contacting your mouth or nose, although this is less likely.

It's possible to be infectious before you even realise you're ill. The virus typically enters your body 1 to 4 days before you start to experience symptoms, and you may pass it on to someone a day before you begin to feel symptoms and up to 5 days later. Children are much more contagious. They have another week to propagate the infection.

Even though some individuals don't exhibit symptoms, they may still pass it on to others.

Staying Home With A Cold Or The Flu Any Time Your Child Is Sick

If your kid is ill, it is preferable if they remain at home until they recover. They should stay at home if they have a fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or any discomfort, aren't hungry or seem unusually sleepy or clinging.

How do you know when it's time to take your kid out of school? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should answer the following questions:

  1. Is your kid suffering from a fever? Children should remain at home if they have a fever of 38C (or 101F) or higher.
  1. Is your kid in good enough health to attend class? Keep them at home if they seem to be too tired to benefit from their lessons.
  1. Do they have a contagious disease such as the flu or pinkeye? If you suspect they're infectious, don't allow them to return to school until you're confident they're no longer contagious. If at all feasible, enrol them in online courses.

Before returning your kid to their routine, check with their daycare or school. Many localities set guidelines for how long children must remain at home. It usually takes at least a full day after they haven't had any fever and haven't taken any medicine.

Here's what you should be looking out for:

Fever is a symptom of your body's battle against the microorganisms that are making you ill. It's a typical symptom of viruses like the flu. If your kid has a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, wait at least 24 hours before bringing them back to school.

Diarrhea may occur as a result of an infection, food poisoning, or antibiotics. It may cause dehydration, so make sure they drink enough water. Keep your kid at home until their stools are firm and your doctor gives you the go light.

Another method our bodies get rid of pathogens is via vomiting. A stomach virus or infection is typically to blame. If your kid has vomited twice or more in the previous 24 hours, keep them at home. They may return to school after their symptoms have subsided or the doctor has determined they are no longer infectious.

Severe cough and cold symptoms should keep your child home. A severe cough may indicate an infectious disease such as whooping cough, viral bronchitis, or croup. It may also be a symptom of asthma or allergies.

Sore throats It may be a sign of a regular cold or strep throat. They may go to school if they have a little cold. Keep your child at home for at least 24 hours after starting antibiotics if your child has been diagnosed with strep throat.

Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) is infectious, and children should be kept at home for the first 24 hours after starting treatment. Eye redness, inflammation, swelling, and pus are all symptoms.

Headaches may be a sign of infectious diseases such as stomach flu, flu, meningitis, and strep throat. Experts are divided on whether or not a child should be kept at home. They may return to school if they show no additional symptoms of sickness and are in good health.

Rashes may indicate infectious diseases such as chickenpox, bacterial meningitis, or impetigo (a skin infection). Keep your kid at home until a diagnosis is made. They may return to class after their symptoms have subsided and the doctor has given them OK.

Ear infections aren't contagious. A child with a minor earache does not need to be kept at home as long as they can focus.

Mild cold or respiratory symptoms You don't have to keep your child home but bear in mind that even if their nose is clean and their cough is moderate, they may still spread the illness to others.


  1. https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/stay-home-cold-flu 
  2. CDC: “Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others," “How Flu Spreads," “Cold Versus Flu," “The Flu: What to Do If You Get Sick."
  3. KidsHealth.org: “Common Colds: Protect Yourself and Others," “Is My Child Too Sick to Go to School?"
  4. Massachusetts Department of Public Health: “Colds versus Flu: How to Tell the Difference."
  5. Mayo Clinic: “Common Cold: Self-management."
  6. Center for Young Women's Health: “Colds and Flu: General Information."
  7. Government of South Australia: “Colds & Flu Questions & Answers."
  8. American Academy of Pediatrics: “Keeping a Child Home From School."
  9. Communicable Disease Epidemiology Program, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: “Infectious Disease in School Settings."
  10. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: “What You Can Do to Stop Disease in Your Child's Day Care Center."

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