How long should you keep a child home with the flu?

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How can you keep your child safe from the flu, and how do you keep a sick child from infecting others?

10 year-old Nico Mallozzi from New Canaan, CT  left a hockey tournament, and hours later died of the flu. A tragic case, but not unheard of.

“Any kids who don’t hit that puberty age are still at higher risk than a healthy adult or healthy adolescent,” Dr. Richard Uluski of Pediatric & Medical Associates.

Uluski says children under five are at an even higher risk. So are senior citizens. One reason this season is particularly bad is the flu shot is only about half as effective as it is most years. Even so, doctors say everyone over 6 months old should get it.

“I absolutely recommend getting the flu shot for everybody,” said Dr. Uluski. “This is the reason why: There’s data out that shows if you get the flu shot, even if it’s not effective to prevent the flu for you, it shows that the flu will be less if you do get the flu.”

Less severe, and shorter in duration. That means your kids can get back to school faster. But how long should you keep a kid home with the flu? Dr. Uluski says 24 hours after the fever goes down is a good rule of thumb.

“Kids who are really congested, coughing a ton, probably need to stay home that extra day after the fever resolves until that kind of resolves or gets a little bit less,” Uluski said.

Same thing with body aches. Give them an extra day until those go away. If your child is taking Tamiflu, however, they could go back to school as soon as they feel better. Doctor Uluski says Tamiflu attacks the virus.

“You’re less able to spread it because you’re blocking how the virus replicates in your body,” said Uluski.

What we can all do to stay healthy is wash our hands a lot, and when your child comes home from school or day care, wash their hands – or maybe more than just their hands, if they’ve been playing with other kids.

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