Is Your Child Sick or Just Faking It? Know the Difference!

Parenting is one of the most rewarding experiences in life however it doesn’t come without its challenges.  When your child gets sick, it’s sometimes difficult to determine if they’re actually ill or just pretending.  One in ten kids has faked symptoms, but determining if they’re really sick tends to show in their behavior.  How do you tell if they’re really sick?  Here are some pointers to assist you in making the call.

Physical symptoms

Physical symptoms are the easiest way to tell if your child is actually ill.  Look for signs of a fever and keep them home if they have anything over 100 degrees.  Vomiting and diarrhea are other tell-tale signs of legitimate illness.  A rash is another symptom of actual illness.  Like a fever, a rash is hard to fake.

Runny noses, coughing, and sneezing are not always signs of the cold or flu and could be symptoms of allergies.  While allergies likely aren’t a reason to keep your child home, severe hay fever may cause fatigue and drowsiness, limiting your child’s capability to function highly at school.  Couple a runny nose, cough, and/or sneezing with a fever or any of the other symptoms listed above and they are likely suffering from a cold or flu.

Fatigue and Tiredness

If your child wants to stay home and rest, that is generally a sign they are not feeling well. When given the option to watch television, play video games or on the computer, and they turn it down, they probably aren’t feeling well.  Passing over their favorite activities to sleep likely indicates illness.

Anxiety and other subtle symptoms

While your child may not have a fever or vomiting, sometimes they may complain of stomachaches, headaches, or feeling tired.  A parent’s natural tendency may be to send them on their way to school anyway, however these symptoms may be subtler signs of an underlying condition like anxiety or depression.  In these cases, your pediatrician or nurse practitioner can help you get to the root cause of these potentially serious issues.

Determining if your child should stay home from school

Consider the physical symptoms above.  If you’re still having a difficult time determining if your child is actually sick, think back to their sickness patterns.  If it seems like your child feels ill every Tuesday and Thursday, which coincidentally is gym day, consider sending them to school anyway, being sure to ask about this behavior pattern and why your child doesn’t want to go to school.  It’s also important to recognize that everyone needs a break sometimes, even children.  Sometimes the weekend may not be enough time for them to get caught up and feeling energized for the week ahead of them.

What if your child fakes not feeling well?

As a parent, it’s important to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your child about why they felt the need to fake an illness.  Maybe they are having issues at school and wanted to stay home; perhaps they want one-on-one time with you as their parent; or maybe they’re just trying to get out of a homework assignment.  Whatever the reason is, it’s important to get the root of it and work towards understanding what’s really going on with your child.

Parental “gut” feeling

Ultimately the decision regarding if a child is really sick or not will come down to a parent’s gut feeling and intuition.  You know your child better than anyone else and will be able to determine if they truly don’t feel well or if they’re faking.  In the end, it’s more about knowing your child than knowing the medical science.

Northwest Primary Care offers specialized services for your child and adolescent—whether they’re sick with a cold or flu or need emotional support, we are here for you and your family.