Jordanís legendary "flu game" is an enduring
inspiration in my house, though not for the reason you might
scored 38 points in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals despite
being so weakened by flu-like symptoms that he needed
teammates to prop him up during timeouts. Most people consider
that game to be the epitome of MJís unrelenting
competitiveness. I consider it an endorsement of my belief
that kids shouldnít call in sick for any reason short of a
led to a few regrettable incidents, such as the time I
encouraged my son to play a basketball game when he was paler
than Casper the Friendly Ghost, and the time I dragged my
nauseated toddler daughter to the office so I could do some
work, only to see her upchuck in a colleagueís trash can.
the most part, I think this attitude teaches children to tough
it out when theyíre not feeling their best. The world is
going to expect that when they grow up, so why not learn it
when theyíre young?
comes to sending a sick child to school, though, thereís no
denying that parents get something out of it, too.
working moms and dads, a childís unexpected illness can be
anything from a minor irritant to a job killer. So we have
plenty of motivation, character-building aside, to give little
Timmy some Childrenís Tylenol when heís warm and hope he
makes it through the school day without his head bursting into
districts have policies meant to keep the truly sick kids at
home, including those with contagious illnesses such as strep
throat or pink eye, and those who, within the last 24 hours,
have experienced vomiting or a fever of 100-plus degrees. I
grudgingly go along with those rules, but thereís still
plenty of wiggle room that can be exploited by a harried
the common cold: School guidelines sometimes call for kids to
stay home when their symptoms interfere with their ability to
learn. Well, what does that mean?
here learns just fine when heís coughing up his trachea ó
quiet, Junior ó so itís off to school he goes. Besides, Iíve
got a 9 a.m. flight to Newark that I canít possibly
pushed the limit enough to know Iím not the best authority
on when to keep a kid home, so I asked a couple of experts
about where parents should draw the line.
Mattey, president of the National Association of School
Nurses, said parents should be especially cautious with
younger kids, who arenít as vigilant about preventing others
from getting sick by covering their mouths when they cough and
washing their hands regularly.
said, if an older child is warm but still below his districtís
fever threshold ó the Delaware high school where Mattey
works has a cutoff of 100.4 degrees ó itís probably fine
for him to go to class if he otherwise feels OK, she said.
know their kids the best," she said. "They know when
kids are generally not feeling well. We certainly donít want
to encourage kids to stay home willy-nilly. Ö As long as
they arenít running a fever or show obvious signs of an
illness, certainly we need to encourage them to go to
Anne Wesoloski, president of the Illinois Association of
School Nurses, said thereís also a bigger picture to
have to look at the endgame," said Wesoloski, who works
as a school nurse in Barrington, Ill. "(Keeping ill
children home) comes back to benefit them. If theyíre not at
school getting their friends sick, theyíre not getting it
back a week later. Ö In the long run, everybody wins when
these guidelines are followed."
short run, though, parents still have those pesky work
commitments to manage, which sometimes leads to kids going to
school when they shouldnít. Wesoloski said she understands
the pressure of making that "go/no go" decision
quickly in the morning, especially for single parents or those
in non-salaried jobs, where taking time off means less money
in their paychecks.
parents feel they have no choice but to send their kids,"
fortunate to have understanding bosses and a job with some
flexibility, so generally Iím able to make that choice. So
while Iím still strict about having my kids go to school
when theyíre not feeling tip-top, Iím trying to ease up a
all, not every school day should be treated like the NBA
Finals. Just most of them.