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How do I know if my child is actually sick?

Take your child's temperature. Look for a temperature of 100° F or higher. © iStockphoto.com/Renee Lee Take your child's temperature. Look for a temperature of 100° F or higher. © iStockphoto.com/Renee Lee

By Diane Lightfoote
 

If your child doesn't show the obvious signs of illness (no deep chest cough, vomiting or severe congestion, for example), a few silent symptoms may alert you that she should stay home from school:

1. Fever. Take your child's temperature. Look for a temperature of 100° F or higher. Most temperatures will return to normal after a few days of rest, but call the pediatrician if it exceeds 103° F.

2. Swollen glands. If your child complains of a sore throat, feel for swollen glands on both sides of her neck just under the jawbone. Swollen glands can be the first sign of several illnesses -- cold, flu, strep throat or even mononucleosis.

3. Unusual behavior. Watch for any signs that your child seems lethargic or listless, and note if her appetite has disappeared.

Along with checking for physical symptoms, find out whether what's causing her disinterest in going to school is school-related: Is there a test that day? Did your child neglect to finish a homework assignment? Did she have a disagreement with a friend?

After a thorough review, if you think your child is well enough for school, be sure to call the nurse and ask her to watch for any symptoms. Remind your child that you're just a phone call away if feelings of illness return.

Copyright (c) 2010 Studio One Networks. All rights reserved.

Diane Lightfoote, a registered nurse, is a school nurse at Sanford Street Elementary in Glen Falls, N.Y., and the immediate past president of the New York state Association of School Nurses.

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