Healthwatch 16: Doctor’s Advice for Cold and Flu Season

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GEISINGER MEDICAL CENTER -- There are a number of illnesses going around in workplaces right now, and schools can be even worse.

It's cold and flu season, so we thought we'd ask a pediatrician about some guidelines you can use when your little one brings a bug home.

Dr. Kathryn DeHart is a pediatrician at Geisinger Medical Center near Danville. We wanted to know her advice on when to keep your child home sick, and when they can go to school.

"If they don't have a fever and they're not vomiting, they can probably go to school. Colds, coughs, runny noses, don't need them to stay home," said Dr. DeHart.

That's because she says kids, on average, will get two colds per month for the entire viral season and that would be a lot of school missed.

It's a different story with a fever.

"They're more contagious when they have a fever. And they don't feel well when they have a fever, don't participate in school at all."

And if your child has been sick to his or her stomach, it's best to keep them home until they haven't gotten sick for 24 hours.

When it comes to treating cold and flu symptoms with over-the-counter or other types of medicines, recommendations differ by pediatrician so it's best to ask your doctor.

Dr. DeHart says most of the time parents or guardians can nurse their kids back to health, but there are a few instances when you should get the doctor involved.

"If they're having trouble breathing, chest pain, anything like that they need to be seen. Or if a fever is persisting and lasting longer than five days, then you need to be seen.

And above all, trust your instincts. Dr. DeHart points out you know your child better than anyone.

One thing to make clear is that rules for babies are different, especially when it comes to fevers. If your baby has a fever, particularly if the baby is younger than 3 months old, Dr. DeHart says you need to let the child's doctor know.