I got my viscera in an uproar today with an apparently intelligent, well-meaning mother who would not accept the fact that I wasn’t going to give her son antibiotics. I explained all about viruses and how antibiotics don’t work on colds. “But he’s been sick for 5 days,” was her exasperated reply. (I refrained from telling her of my own ills over the past three weeks.)

I explained all the places we can see bacterial infections (ears, throat, lungs) and where we can’t (sinuses). I explained how sometimes bacterial infections can develop in the sinuses for example, with prolonged upper respiratory viruses (over 10 days). “Can you check him for that now?” “Mrs. Smith, I just told you that sinuses are one of the places we CANT see into with regular office equipment.” I continued, “If he’s still sick in 5 days and not getting better…” She rolled her eyes and interupted, “But he’s already been sick for 5 days.” Five plus five equals ten. I felt like getting angry, but I refrained from sounding irritated.

She told me, “The school says he can’t be in school if he has a fever. Doesn’t he need antibiotics for a fever?” Hadn’t I explained this already? “I think he has a virus,” I said, “and I am not going to give him antibiotics today.” “Can a virus cause a fever?” she questioned. ARRGH! “But he’s missing out on his education,” she pleaded. I felt like puking. He’s in fifth grade for goodness sake. “You can bring his work home, or he can go back to school.” I said. “Unless he’s too tired or feels to sick to go to school, there’s no reason he can’t go to school even if he has a fever.”

I told her I would bring the staff physician in and we could get his opinion, which she seemed to be happy about. “I think he has a cold,” was the staff physicians assessment.

Why do the schools get parents in such a frenzy over fevers? It would be appropriate to tell the parents that if your child has a fever in school, he will be sent home to be seen and evaluated by a physician. I’ve had several good cases of treatable illness, new onset asthma, pneumonia, etc that were first suspected by the school nurse. But about 95% of fevers in school in the wintertime are COLDS. Cough, sniffles, runny nose, sore throat, fevers….if you’re kids got all of the above, whether it’s 1 day or 5 days, he’s probably got a cold.

What they SHOULD tell the parents is Once Johnny’s seen a doctor, he can come back to class.