In cold and flu season, it is tempting to medicate your child that is not feeling well and send them to school, or take some medicine yourself and go to work.

“It’s just the sniffles,” or “they will call me if needed” are the things we may think as we hurry on with the day. As parents, we tell ourselves “I need to get this done” or “I can’t afford to take another day off,” when we are obviously not well. People often think that pushing a child who is not feeling well to attend school is teaching them resilience, or that going to work sick is a sign of selflessness, but it actually does more harm than good.

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

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 our bodies are working hard to fight an illness when we are sick, and a persistent lack of rest only further weakens immunity.

Picture this: a child develops a fever, vomits, or doesn’t feel well, and they spend the night tossing and turning and getting little to no rest. They then go to school the next day only to feel worse than before. Parents may think “at least they learned a few lessons before they were sent home,” but they didn’t retain any material because they were focused on their illness, putting their heads down, or making multiple trips to the nurse’s office.

The child is more immunocompromised than when they arrived, and they have now 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 must remain out of school until they have been fever free, without vomiting, and without diarrhea for 24 hours without medication. Students who test positive for COVID-19 must stay home for 5 days and wear a mask for 10 days. If a student is diagnosed with a contagious illness, they must have a physician’s note and have taken antibiotics (if prescribed) for 24 hours before returning to school.

This policy protects the students and the staff by helping prevent the spread of illness, thereby reducing lost instruction time.

It also includes persistent coughs and runny noses that are not improving. 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 pushing your sick child to go to school or “powering through” your own illness, give yourself a prescription to stay home, rest, and have a bowl of warm soup. Let us reteach ourselves how to heal.

By Nerissa Conley, RN, PEL-CSN

Nurse Conley is our school nurse.