Is your child really sick? Or just playing hooky?

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT)- Many parents have had those mornings when your child wakes up coughing, sniffling, and complaining that they don't feel well. Do they have a cold? What about the flu? Or what if they really aren't sick at all?

Sometimes it's clear your child is legitimately sick and needs to be taken to the doctor. Other times, it's not so easy to figure out what, if anything, is wrong with them.

Experts believe that at least 10% of kids have faked sick to their parents so they could take the day off.

Dr. David Hill with Cape Fear Pediatrics says parents need to look for certain physical signs to determine if their children are sick.

Common symptoms of flu include fever, extreme fatigue, dry cough, and body aches. cold symptoms are typically milder, including a runny or stuffy nose. If in doubt, always take their body temperatures.

"Kids cannot fake a fever. So, elevated temperature taken orally in an older child, rectally in an infant or baby, is really a good sign of significant illness," said Hill.

So how do you know if your child is trying to pull a fast one on you?

Fake symptoms typically don't last long. Be suspicious if your child is coughing their lungs out one moment but then talking nonstop on the phone the next.

Kids who are truly sick usually doze off while watching television or playing on the computer. So if they are glued to a TV-watching marathon, wide awake, it could be a sign that they are faking it.

Symptoms that move from one body part to the other may be a sign of faking it. For example, my head hurts, now my stomach hurt, those are signs to be suspicious.

Sometimes kids are faking sick for attention or just the thrill of it, but it can also mask other issues such as anxiety, depression, or their wish to avoid a bully at school.

Other reasons children might feel they need to fake sick are kids whose parents have very high expectations tend to have more anxiety, so they might stay home if they have a test or presentation they don't feel they are ready for.

Parents need set a good example. If you tend to feel ill before a busy day or work event, your child will pick up on that and mimic that behavior.

Don't "reinforce" sick behavior. For example, don't let your child curl up on the couch with ice cream and the remote control. Dr. Hill says even healthy children should not watch more than 2 hours of television a day.

"Just because they are sick doesn't mean we should suspend that rule, it's a good time for them to catch up on reading, resting, and other creative quiet activities."

If you've established your child is not faking it, at what point do you call the doctor?

"A fever greater than 104 degrees is not going to harm a child, but it may suggest a more serious illness, likewise, if the child has not peed in more than 8 hours they might be getting dehydrated. any difficulty breathing, wheezing, rapid breathing, all of this concerns us," said Hill.

If you are taking care of a sick child, the best way to keep it from spreading around the home is to wash your hands. Also, schools and daycares will not allow children to come in until the fever, vomiting, or diarrhea is gone for 24 hours, so don't skirt the rules, they are there to protect your child and all others.

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