Is Your Child Too Sick to Go to School?
Colds, Flu, Coughing: How to Tell When Your Kid is Too Sick For School
Some symptoms, like a sky-high fever or a hacking cough that just won’t quit, are no-brainers when it comes to keeping your child home from school. Other times, the decision is a bit trickier. Maybe your child had a fever the night before, but seems fine the next morning. Symptoms like mild congestion can be equally confusing.
Three questions to ask
According to the American Society of Pediatrics, there are three main questions you should ask when deciding whether to keep your child home from school.
- Do they have a fever? Fevers of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher are usually a sign of illness in which you should keep your kids home. If your child has a slight fever, but no other symptoms, they can likely attend school, but it is best to chat with your doctor and/or call your child’s pediatrician.
- Can they participate in class? If your son or daughter is too tired or run down to participate actively in class keep them home. Similarly, illnesses like diarrhea warrant some time at home. Focus on hydrating your child and allowing them to rest.
- Is the illness contagious? Contagious illnesses, like the flu, always merit staying home from school. Don’t let your kids return to school until you’re 100 percent certain they’re no longer contagious. In the case of pink eye, school policies do vary. Some require time at home or a doctor's note before the child can return to school.
If your child has these illnesses and/or symptoms, consider keeping them home
The three questions above are great guidelines, but there are also specific ailments that mean your child should take a sick day:
- If your child has vomited 2 or more times in the last 24 hours
- Severe cold symptoms, including severe coughs
- A recent strep throat diagnosis although kids can usually return to school 24 hours after starting antibiotics
- Rashes without a diagnosis & you should get confirmation from your pediatrician before making a decision
When in doubt, check with the school first
Every school and childcare center has specific guidelines about when children should stay home. For example, some schools request that kids with fevers stay at home until at least 24 hours after a fever has broken naturally, without the use of any medications.
Other contagious infections, including rubella, whooping cough, mumps, measles, and hepatitis A, have specific guidelines for returning to school. Your child’s doctor can help you figure out a game plan, and the school will also be a helpful resource.
There’s also another simple guideline you can use when deciding if your child is too sick to go to school: If they’ll require more care and attention than a teacher can realistically provide, or if their illness will disrupt the classroom, spend the day at home.