DDPHE Blog: How Sick is Too Sick for School or Work?

Published on December 09, 2022

A Respiratory Resource for Perplexed Parents

RSV infections and hospitalizations are high. COVID-19 is still out there with new variants emerging. And the flu season could be one of the worst in recent history. New terms like, ‘tri-demic’ and ‘triple-demic’ are making the rounds in the media and it can be confusing and a bit frightening for parents.  When should parents keep the kiddos home from school? Or stay home themselves?

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that spreads when talking, coughing, and sneezing. RSV symptoms can include a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, or coughing; and can also include fever, decreased appetite, and difficulty breathing or wheezing. RSV causes respiratory tract illness in people of all ages, but infants, young children, and older adults are at greater risk of severe illness from RSV. Since October 1, 88% of RSV-related hospitalizations have been among children, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.

Due to masking and social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, RSV infections declined significantly. Additionally, young children were not exposed to common germs during this time.  This year, germs are spreading more normally but kids have less built-up immunity and therefore are more vulnerable to common viruses like RSV.

There are three main reasons to stay home and keep kids at home:

  1. The child has tested positive for COVID-19, has symptoms of COVID-19 or has had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  2. The child does not feel well enough to take part in usual activities. For example, a child is feverish, overly tired, fussy or will not stop crying.
  3. The child needs more care than teachers and staff can give while still caring for the other children.

Parents should also check their school’s guidelines, some of which may dictate when a child needs to be kept home from school, while others may rely more on parental judgment. As for children at higher risk because of other medical conditions, consult with your pediatrician before your child gets sick so you know what to look for.

To prevent these respiratory illnesses, teach your children the hygiene practices health care professionals were promoting long before the pandemic, like washing hands, using hand sanitizer when a sink isn’t available, coughing and sneezing into an elbow or tissue, and not sharing food or utensils with friends. There is no vaccine (yet) for RSV, but there are effective ones available for influenza and COVID-19. If your child is not yet vaccinated, talk to their doctor about protecting them against these viruses.

Follow This Guidance for Wintertime Illnesses:

  • Anyone who is experiencing cold and flu symptoms should stay home until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicines or after symptoms have improved (at least 4-5 days after flu symptoms started).
  • People who test positive for COVID-19 must stay home for the next five days, even if you have no symptoms.
  • If you have no symptoms or if your symptoms are improving (fever-free for 24 hours) you may resume normal activities but should continue to wear a mask for another five days unless you receive two negative antigen or at-home test results 48 hours apart.

DDPHE continues to urge everyone to be mindful and take precautions when going about their winter routines