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So what if your child has a mild cold or shows signs of itchy eyes from allergies? Is it better to let the child stay at home until the symptoms disappear? And if so, for how long?
The answer to this question depends on where you live in Canada, but for the most part, health guidelines in many provinces state the same message: If your child has even a mild symptom, keep it at home.
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COVID-19, the flu or the common cold?
Parents cannot be 100% sure their child’s illness is a cold or the flu, even if a coronavirus test is given, according to Dr. Dina Kulik, a pediatrician in Toronto and founder and director of Kidcrew Pediatrics.
“Public health recommendations vary depending on where you live, but even if you have a negative COVID test you must wait 48 hours before going back to school and the child must be symptom-free,” she declared.
“But when possible, it’s best to stay home for the full 14 days,” she said, adding that she understands how difficult it is for parents.
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“I am a mom and a business owner and I understand this is a challenge. But you don’t want to send your child back to school with the virus, ”she says.
Kulik said she does not anticipate the regular flu and cold season this year, due to social distancing, mask wear and diligent hand washing already in place.
“The way we prevent colds and flu is exactly the same as we prevent COVID,” she says.
Dr Alon Vaisman, an infectious disease and infection control physician at the University Health Network in Toronto, said one of the ways to differentiate the coronavirus from the common cold and the flu is to change the taste.
The sudden loss of taste and smell is more likely a symptom of COVID-19, he said.
“But the absence of that doesn’t rule out the coronavirus, so be sure to watch out for other symptoms,” Vaisman added.
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Vaisman said if your child is showing symptoms of a cold or flu, it is best to call your health care provider and get tested for COVID-19.
“Anyone with symptoms shouldn’t go to school or daycare. You can call your doctor, pediatrician, or go to a clinic to get tested. If the parent does not want their child to be tested, the child will need to be isolated for 14 days. So ideally it’s better to be tested, ”he said.
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Vaisman warned that even if a child tested negative for the virus, they could still have it, so parents should continue to watch for symptoms.
“A negative test doesn’t always mean they don’t have it. You should also watch for symptoms to disappear. So if the kid had a slightly runny nose, no exposure to the virus and the test came back negative, then it should be okay to go to school, ”he said.
What about seasonal allergies?
For students prone to allergies, Kulik and Vaisman both recommend that parents make a plan with their family doctor before school starts.
“Contact your doctor and have a plan for medications or to get a doctor’s note for school,” Vaisman said.
Allergy symptoms, such as pink eyes, coughing and sneezing, can resemble coronavirus, Kulik explained. She recommended that parents give their child a safe, non-drowsy antihistamine, as these drugs will reduce the allergic response.
“It won’t help with COVID, so if your kid is feeling better then you have the answer,” she says.
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Provincial COVID-19 guidelines
While most provinces have health guidelines that say students should stay home if they show signs of COVID-19, they differ slightly depending on where you live.
British Columbia guidelines say that students who show symptoms of a cold, flu or coronavirus cannot go to school and should see their doctor. Students can still go to school if a member of their household has a cold, the flu or COVID-like symptoms, as long as the student is asymptomatic, the province said.
The province recommends self-isolating for 14 days or taking a COVID-19 test.
Students who suffer from seasonal allergies can continue to attend school, but if they experience a change in symptoms, they should seek an assessment by a health care provider, the province said.
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Alberta health guidelines state that if a student exhibits a symptom such as a cough, runny nose, nausea or diarrhea, the student will not be allowed to attend school.
The student must self-isolate for at least 10 days or until symptoms subside, the province said. If your test is negative and you have no known exposure to the virus, stay home until symptoms subside, the province added.
A student with symptoms of COVID-19 who has allergies that cause similar symptoms should get at least one negative COVID-19 test result before returning to school, according to Alberts health guidelines.
In Quebec, the province recommends that children with mild flu symptoms be kept at home and avoid contact with others. After 24 hours, the situation can be reassessed depending on the progression of symptoms.
Back to school with allergies
If a child has one or more symptoms that warrant being kept at home, it is strongly suggested that the child be tested, the province said. The pupil can then return to school when at least 14 days have passed, there has been no acute symptoms for at least 24 hours, or no fever for 48 hours (without having taken anti -fever).
Ontario’s COVID-10 guidelines said that children who show signs of COVID-19, such as a runny nose or headache, should stay home until symptoms disappear or the child take a test.
Students who test negative should not return to school until at least 24 hours have passed and symptoms have resolved, the province added. However, test results are not required to return to school. Children who are not tested for the virus will need to stay home for 14 days and until symptoms subside.
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