With cold and flu season in full swing, it is often tempting to medicate your child and send them to school, or to take some medicine yourself and go to work.

“It’s just a little cold” or “they only vomited once,” we think as we hurry on with our day. How many times have we told ourselves “my coworkers need me” or “I can’t afford to take a day off” when we feel awful and are obviously not well?

Parents often think that pushing a child who is not feeling well to attend school is teaching them resilience, or that going to work when sick is a sign of selflessness, but it actually does more harm than good.

During sleep, your immune system releases cytokine proteins which help the body fight infection when sick. A prolonged lack of sleep or lack of rest when recovering from sickness delays healing and increases susceptibility to other infections.

Modern life does not seem to accommodate sick days and often people feel that days spent lying in bed are unproductive. This however is far from the truth, as during sleep and rest our bodies are working hard to fight the infection when we are sick, and a continued lack of rest only further weakens immunity.

Imagine this: A child develops a fever or vomits, they then spend the night tossing and turning, and go to school the next day only to develop a higher fever. Parents may rationalize that at least they learned a few lessons before they were sent home, but in reality they didn’t retain any material because they were distracted by how bad they felt, they are more immunocompromised than when they arrived, and they have exposed classmates to the illness enabling it to spread in their absence and setting them up for reinfection upon their return.

Here at Morgan Park Academy, our medical policy states that sick students have to remain out of school until they are fever-free, without vomiting, and without diarrhea for 24 hours without medication. This policy protects the students and the staff by helping prevent the spread of illness, thereby reducing lost instruction time. No student is penalized for absences related to illness.

Typical flu lasts 5-6 days but people generally feel better within 48-72 hours with adequate rest and nutrition. So next time instead of sending your sick child to school or “powering through” your own illness, give yourself a prescription to stay home, rest, and have a bowl of warm chicken soup.

By Nerissa Conley, RN, PEL-CSN

Nurse Conley is our school nurse.