Tuesdays are Your Turn – Kids, School, Sick Days

Last weekend: Crazy-hectic

This week: Better, but the Sidekick’s been sick since Saturday and hasn’t returned to school yet. So guess what I’ve been doing lately?

Monday’s announcement: On hold until tomorrow (see above)

Today’s reader response: Straight from my inbox:

My son started kindergarten this year. Now that attendance “counts,” I’m having anxiety about the days he misses. How do I figure out when he’s sick and his asthma’s bothering him or when it’s just his asthma and he could go to school? Please tell me I’m not the only one who stresses about attendance. What helps you decide? How many days do your children miss? I feel like I’m doing this wrong! HELP.

Have I been there? OH YES, and some of you have, too. I’ll thrown in my own two cents (or ten) when life calms down a little and the Sidekick starts feeling better.

Until then, how about it? Help another reader out, and share your experiences below.

16 responses to “Tuesdays are Your Turn – Kids, School, Sick Days”

  1. Sarah says:

    Maybe she could have a talk with the administration of the school and see if they draw a line between “excused” absences and “unexcused” absences, and if exceptions can be made for children with chronic illnesses. If the school can’t (or won’t) help, you can try going up the ladder to the school board.

    My parents got lucky with me: The school I was attending when I was at my worst was very understanding, and as long as the parent(s) of a child called in to let the school know that the child wouldn’t be in and that it was due to illnes/doctor’s appt/etc, the kid was considered “excused” from school for the day and the absence didn’t count against their “allowed” number of absences.

  2. Lisa says:

    My AG has a GREAT school nurse(s) and that helps a lot. If she does not feel right the nurse will examine her and call me. I also talk w/ teacher b/f school starts and give them a heads up. Luckily, my AG has only been out a week, but that was due to H1N1 and not her asthma. (by the way…her lungs stayed beautifully clear during the flu) Praise!!!!

  3. Michelle says:

    In my opinion, as the mother of a 2nd grader with asthma, you should probably talk to the nurse and his teachers to make sure everyone is aware of your son’s asthma. Set up a nebulizer/inhaler plan with the nurse that you’re both comfortable with so that he doesn’t have to stay home just so that you can administer his meds. Often, they are well enough to sit through class, but have to occassionally use an inhaler/nebulizer to keep…well…breathing.

  4. Sara C. says:

    Check on the schools 504 plan requirements. If a child is chronically ill, and they have a 504 plan, absences can be on that plan.

    I also agree that you need to talk with the nurse…some schools have neb machines in the nurses office, and the parent just supplies the cup, tubing and medication (along with a valid prescription)

    I will always keep my AG home if she is running a fever, or coughing so much she vomits. She has gastro involvement as well as asthma, so she sometimes stays home for belly aches. I always try to send her, with the understanding that if she can’t make the day, she can go to the nurse and she will call me. I always send in a note, if M. sounds particularly crappy, just so that they will know that I’m aware, and that if it’s really bad (or even just really distracting to the other kids) they can call me to get her.

    If you’ve got an “Asthma Action Plan” the school nurse should have a copy of it. M. is nearly always in yellow…so she gets “rescue” at the same time as her mid day maintenance inhaler nearly every day. M. will often pop into the nurses office in the morning, and just say “I’m yellow today” so the nurse knows that she needs both puffers after lunch.

    Long story short…if you have a kiddo who gets sick enough to miss school due to asthma, then the administration needs to be on board with it, either with a “health plan” or a 504 plan. A district or school’s own health plan isn’t legally binding, but a 504 is. In many states, Kindergarten isn’t mandatory…so the absences still don’t really “count” (they can’t call a truancy officer on you) so use this year to sort of gauge how many absences your son has, and see if it’s a huge number…if it’s really high, then some sort of plan will probably need to be in place.

  5. Allison says:

    My son also has a GREAT school nurse, but unfortunately, she’s only at the school two days a week (a very small school). When she’s there, I know she keeps an eye on him, if he’s having trouble she’ll listen to his lungs, check his pulse and oxygen levels, call/email me with updates, etc. The three days a week she’s not there — it’s a crap shoot. We try to plan all asthma flares around her schedule!

  6. kerri says:

    I can only answer this from the perspective of a high school student with asthma, which I know is WAY different than being a parent of a child with asthma–but, I’m also a childcare worker and an education student, so I got some other stuff in my brain ;) .

    I only missed a few days of school for my asthma, and that was always in combination with a cold. Depending on how I was feeling, waking up to a peak flow that was about 70% or below would, to me as a patient, be grounds to stay home, at least for the morning (of course, if the kindergarten program is half-day mornings, then that poses another problem). Ditto if I were short of breath just walking from my bed to the bathroom (although, I definitely have made the mistake of going to school like this…)

    Also from a patient/student perspective; if I’m not breathing well, I’m not learning anything anyways. I’m known to go to class, sit there for an hour sprawled across my desk trying to adjust myself so I can breathe. I’m not paying attention to the prof anyways, so what’s the point of me being there? Chances are, although it may be exhibited slightly differently in a kindergartener, that the same thing will be happening.

    My suggestion would be to contact the administration and find out more about the attendance policy in detail, especially pertaining to kids with chronic illness. I’m not sure about my elementary school (which didn’t have a nurse, might i add), but my high school had a fairly strict attendance policy. After ten absences or five unexcused absences, you could be kicked out of the course. I think by the end of last year I had racked up nine absences in choir from being sick or going to doctor’s appointments. (You could then, of course, appeal with the school board and provide supporting documentation as to where you were when you weren’t in class).

    I know it’s hard to keep kids from going to school, but I’ve pushed through days where I SHOULDN’T have been at school and ended up retaining nothing anyways. I’ve also been there days that I was coughing so much with a cold that I was distracting others around me, AND infesting the world with my germs. It’s not good for the kid, the worried parent, or the kids in the class.

    From an education student’s perspective:
    One of the first things we covered in my education class is what students need to be able to be effective learners. When a student is in the classroom, they’re there to learn, but, if they’re worried about something else, their ability to learn is definitely hindered. If they’re worried about their breathing, they’re not going to really care what letter comes after C in the alphabet (or, you know, as they move up the ladder, they’re not gonna really care about cell structure).

    And, from a childcare worker’s perspective. I’ve seen kids come to daycare sick. They’re miserable, they just wanna be at home on the couch in the living room or in their bed with someone who can take care of them better than the daycare can. Of course, we usually make the attempt to get kids home in this situation, but if they’ve started feeling bad mid-afternoon at school, there’s not much we can do other than call the parents till someone gets there to pick the kid up–and I know that can’t be avoided.
    But, if you’re subjecting a sick or flaring kid to school or daycare ALL DAY, the kid’s just not going to be happy, they’re gonna get stressed, the staff are gonna be stressed, and no doubt as a parent of an asthmatic kid, you’re going to be stressed as you may not know what’s going on with your child at a given point in the day or how they’re breathing.

    And, as all responsible asthma parents, you know this already but I really want to enforce something I’ve encountered while working at the daycare . . . sick or not, PLEASE make sure your kids have a rescue inhaler in their backpack, at the school AND at their daycare, AND detailed instructions on WHEN medication should be administered..

    We had one incident with an asthmatic eleven year old who had been made responsible for her own medication, and had a mild flare-up on the playground. The director “monitored it” and informed the child’s mom . . . AT THE END OF THE DAY. The mom was surprised her kid din’t have the inhaler with her.

    As an asthmatic childcare worker, this scares the crap out of me how this incident was responded to, and why ALL places caring for kids need to have solid asthma guidelines in place. (You can bet if I hadn’t been on break when this happened, I would have PERSONALLY called this kid’s mom . . .)

    Since you’re all reading this, though, you all seem like gallant asthma parents :) . And, as gallant asthma parents, you’re educated and know that things can escalate quickly. Having a detailed asthma action plan available to school and childcare personnel for ALL kids with asthma is SO important, even if they’re not on maintenance meds and just have intermittent asthma and a rescue inhaler. If you’re making the transition to having kids be responsible for their own medication, in an assertive but kind way, ENFORCE the importance of ALWAYS keeping a rescue inhaler on them, even if it’s permanently tucked away in their backpack.

    (Apologies for this being so long, but thanks for reading :) )

  7. Sara C. says:

    Kerri…you’ve made a good point, that if kids are worried about something else, they aren’t effective learners. My daughter has asthma, but also a stomach issue that causes vomiting. She worries about it a lot. She worries about being sick at school…as, it embarrasses her when she vomits. Her kindergarten teacher mentioned that she was spacey and didn’t pay attention, and didn’t do her work. It concerned me at first, until it was pointed out to me that she has a bit more on her mind than the typical kindergarten student. It made me feel a little better. Hearing it again, from someone else, helps. Thanks.

  8. Amy says:

    I probably don’t even need to add my own comment with all these fabulous responses — you guys are the BEST, seriously — but I said I would, so here goes:

    I’ve developed a couple of rules for AG and me over the years. These are starting to change as she gets older (see today’s post), but coming up with a sort of “code” for myself has been key for eliminating some of the guesswork.

    1. Make sure everyone at the school knows she has asthma. Get it in writing and on file, but also talk to the teacher and the school nurse.

    2. When it doubt, keep her home. My feeling on this has always been–I can ALWAYS take her in late if she seems okay, but it’s much harder to undo the damage of an uncontrolled flare, possibly aggravated by sending her to school. This only applies, though, if I have a reason/physical symptom for that doubt.

    3. If she’s coughing and on regular albuterol treatments, but her peak flow’s okay and she has no other symptoms, I usually send her to school. I’m lucky b/c my kid doesn’t have allergies, so if she’s congested or has a runny nose, that ALWAYS means she’s sick.

    4. I always ask her if she feels well enough to go. While I recognize this step might not work for every kid, my daughter is very good about evaluating her own health. Plus, I like transferring some of the power for the decision to her so that she gets used to taking control of her own health, since she’ll HAVE to when she’s older.

    My daughter’s in fifth grade, and this is her fourth school. (That’s not as bad as it sounds, I promise.) In every case, we’ve never once had an issue with her attendance and the school–they’ve all been very good about recognizing that she will probably miss more than the average kid and not penalizing her for it. Now, her absences haven’t (knock on wood) ever been excessive, but at the same time, she’s never even come close to perfect attendance.

    I went through similar anxiety when AG was very young. She’s my oldest, and I worried the school might start questioning her absences until a family member who teaches elementary school gave me some very useful advice:

    “Teachers know more than you think. If you’re an involved parent who checks homework, sends in excuses for absences, shows up at parent-teacher conferences, makes sure your child doesn’t fall behind in class when she HAS been absent, and stays in touch with the school, don’t worry about it. We worry about absences when it’s a student who DOESN’T have a good reason, like a health issue, or when the student doesn’t come from a family that will keep her up to speed with her schoolwork/homework.”

  9. Sarah says:

    ^ Just from experience as a now-grown-up asthma kid, I definitely had my mind on things other than school when I was sent despite flaring. I didn’t want to be there, I felt sick, I wanted to be at home in bed, and as a result, I was cranky, whiny and disruptive to the class (even when I got to sit out in gym class, because then I was sick, cranky and -bored-). Often, I’d wind up spending most of the day in the sick room of the school’s office or in the in-school suspension room, just because they couldn’t have me in with the other kids – I was too much of a nuicanse to the class.

    In all, whenever I was sent with a flare, it was an unpleasent experience all-around. I’m sure it wasn’t too fun for Mom and Dad to have the school call them about my behavior, either!

    On a tangentially related note, I strongly recommend that if your school has a “medication in the office only” policy, you give one inhaler to the school and give your kid another that’s for them to carry and ONLY take out if they’re flaring. I remember having a flare in gym class one year, and the inhalers were kept in the office. I was wheezing and able to speak only in phrases, but the gym teacher sent me down to the office (across a soccer field and down the length of the school) on my own to get my inhaler. By the time I reached it, I was only able to say two syllables at a time and I was starting to feel unsteady on my feet. If I’d collapsed on the way, I could have died there in the hallway and nobody would have found me until the gym class finished up. After I told my parents that happened, they gave me my own inhaler, and it saved me a time or two before I hit my “Goofus asthmatic” stage as a teenager. >> As far as I’m concerned timely access to their medication is a right for anyone with a potentially life-threatening condition, and I don’t care if the school administration believes otherwise.

  10. SnjMom says:

    My DD 11 has missed more school this year then any other. Her teacher has been great though and said he would rather she stay home as long as she needs. He knows she only misses when she is really sick. I probably keep her home a day more than she might need just to be sure she is better. Next year will be middle school so not sure how different the attendance policy will be then.

    On a similar note, anyone have issues with missing too much work because of staying home with their asthma child? My boss has said I need to find “alternate child care” for when my DD is sick.

  11. Jessie says:

    I’m a new reader and I’m the one who sent in this question but I never expected to get so much help! My son has only been diagnosed for around a year, and I just feel like I’m lost all the the time. THANK YOU for your information everyone! I’m still reading through and I just feel such comfort already, that maybe I’m not as overprotective as I thought.

    To be a little more clear, my son’s school is GREAT about his absences. I’ve just been worried that they’re excessive because of ME and not because his health requires it. But as I said, I’m feeling better and it seems like I’m handling this the right way!

    Thank you again! I’m learning a lot from all these comments that I didn’t know, and thank you Amy!

  12. Sara C. says:

    @ snjMom…if you are in the US, check and see where staying home with an asthmatic child falls under the FMLA…they may not have to PAY you for all the time you need to take, but they may not be able to fire you. It may depend on several factors…but you may have legal protection…but there may be hoops you have to jump through first.

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