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COUGH? FEVER? STAY HOME

What's a mom - or a dad, grandparent or auntie - to do faced with a kid who's come down with something? Call the boss and stay calm, TLC techs say. Here's some timely advice from two moms who have dealt with this dilemma for years. Paula Lokrantz, an ultrasound technician at Bayfront Medical Center, has three teenagers in high school. Kimberly Thomas-Bowles, a security supervisor with a company that works with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has a son in middle school and a daughter in elementary school. Her mother was a pediatric nurse.

How sick do your children have to be to keep them from school?

Lokrantz: If they are showing any signs of fever or runny nose - they don't have to be very sick at all - and I'll keep them home. Being in the health care field, I'd prefer them to not get everybody else sick.

Thomas-Bowles: Actually, I didn't work today because Katie (her 7-year-old) was home with me sick. She had swollen lymph nodes and a low-grade fever of about 101. Under the CDC guidelines when you run a fever of 101 or higher the contagion risk is there.

How does it impact your job when you need to stay home?

Thomas-Bowles: I proceeded to walk into work with her for about 25 minutes, took what items I needed and told them I'd be available to be reached at home. Before I got this position, it would fall on my husband to be the primary caregiver if they were sick.

Lokrantz: I'm fortunate because I have Bearly Sick (a hospital-based sick-kid care service) at the hospital. In severe cases, my husband takes off because he's salaried and I'm hourly. I love Bearly Sick. It's one of the biggest advantages of working here.

How can you tell if they're faking?

Lokrantz: Usually, my kids' symptoms are pretty obvious. They're flush or they've been coughing all morning or they tell me they're not feeling the greatest.

Thomas-Bowles: I lucked out having a mom who was a nurse. I basically give them a mini-physical: Check their throat, check their glands, check if they're cold or clammy, running a fever, etc. ... If they are sick, they're in bed and that's it. We take away some of the glamor, meaning no Xbox.

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