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Action Steps for Parents if School is Dismissed or Children are Sick and Must Stay Home

This website is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated. For updated information on the current flu season, see the CDC Seasonal Flu website.

January 4, 2010 10:30 AM ET

  • Be prepared to support home learning activities if the school makes them available. Your child’s school may offer web-based lessons, instructional phone calls, and other types of distance learning. Have school materials, such as text books, workbooks, and homework packets available at home.
  • Have activities for your children to do while at home. Pull together games, books, DVDs and other items to keep your family entertained.
  • Find out if your employer will allow you to stay at home to care for sick household members or children dismissed from school. Ask if you can work from home. If this is not possible, find other ways to care for your children at home.
  • If school is dismissed, monitor the school’s website, local news, and other sources for information about returning to school.

Tips for taking care of children (and other household members) with the flu

  • Stay home if you or your child is sick until at least 24 hours after there is no longer a fever or signs of a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicine). Keeping sick students at home means that they keep their viruses to themselves rather than sharing them with others. Stay home even if taking antiviral medicines.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub often and especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Keep sick household members in a separate room (a sick room) in the house as much as possible to limit contact with household members who are not sick. Consider designating a single person as the main caregiver for the sick person.
  • Monitor the health of the sick child and any other household members by checking for fever and other symptoms of flu. A fever is a temperature taken with a thermometer that is equal to or greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius). If you are not able to measure a temperature, the sick person might have a fever if he or she feels warm, has a flushed appearance, or is sweating or shivering.

Watch for emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention. These warning signs include:

    • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
    • Bluish or gray skin color
    • Not drinking enough fluids
    • Not urinating or no tears when crying
    • Severe or persistent vomiting
    • Not waking up or not interacting
    • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
    • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
    • Sudden dizziness
    • Confusion
    • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Check with your health care provider about any special care needed for household members who may be at higher risk for complications from flu. This includes children under the age of 5 years (especially children younger than 2 years of age), pregnant women, people of any age who have chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), and people age 65 years and older. See CDC's information on people at higher risk for flu complications.
  • Have the sick household member wear a facemask – if available and tolerable – when sharing common spaces with other household members to help prevent spreading the virus to others. This is especially important if other household members are at high risk for complications from flu.
  • Ask your health care provider about antiviral medicines or fever-reducing medicines for sick household members. Do not give aspirin to children or teenagers; it can cause a rare but serious sickness called Reye’s syndrome
  • Make sure sick household members get plenty of rest and drink clear fluids (such as water, broth, sports drinks, electrolyte beverages for infants) to keep from being dehydrated.

If your health department says that flu conditions have become more severe

  • Extend the time sick children stay home for at least 7 days, even if they feel better sooner. People who are still sick after 7 days should continue to stay home until at least 24 hours after symptoms have gone away.
  • If a household member is sick, keep any school-aged brothers or sisters home for 5 days from the time the household member became sick. Parents should monitor their health and the health of other school-aged children for fever and other symptoms of the flu.
 
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