Many parents have been there: your phone rings, and you immediately recognize the school nurse’s number. You hold your breath and hope she doesn’t say your child needs to go home.
It’s a nurse’s duty to confirm that your child is well enough to be in school for the day in accordance with the school’s policies. The nurse may call about a missing medication, a playground boo boo or more. But if a child is going to the nurse a lot for vague symptoms,
it’s a clear indicator that something else may be going on.
SENDING HIM HOME
Nurses send kids home for many reasons, the most common being headaches, stomachaches, cold symptoms or asthma, says Lisa Crosby, nurse practitioner at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
“Nurses send children home for fever, flu, diarrhea and vomiting which are not permitted by health department regulations,” she says. “Also asthma that isn’t improving with medication, or if a child doesn’t have medication, as this would require additional medical attention,” she says.
Symptoms that are minor result in a kid returning to class. Children are sent back to the classroom if symptoms improve or when they have been seen and basically cleared. Other symptoms that require a nurse’s attention include signs of mental stress from bullying or anxiety.
Crosby says if a child has frequent, vague physical complaints such as stomachaches, the nurse may assess him, call you to discuss the situation, and then refer him to your primary care provider.
ASSESSING HIS NEEDS
A trip to the nurse is different than going to the pediatrician — he is all on his own, and it’s up to him to describe his feelings and symptoms. Let’s face it, some kids love the it’s nurturing, cozy and, well, it’s an easy out from class.
“Nursing staff assess children utilizing their knowledge of the child’s developmental level, as well as by partnering with other school staff familiar with the child,” Crosby says.
“Older siblings are often helpful in providing information,” she adds.
If your child struggles to communicate his needs, the school nurse will turn to you, and communicating with parents about individual children is a preferred option, assures Crosby.
“It also helps as the children become familiar with the nursing staff and feel they can trust the staff,” she continues.
IS HE ANXIOUS?
• Watch for recurring complaints without explanation Stomachaches, headaches, nausea, shaking and other signs of tension. • Watch for unrealistic thoughts and themeatic patterns in thinking With an anxious child, thoughts revolve around dangers and fears: “What if I fail?” The message from an anxious child is that something bad is going to happen.
• Watch for behaviors Anxiety manifests in behavior by avoidance, reassurance-seeking and worrying.
Source: American Psychological Association