When is My Child Too Sick to Go to School?

There are times when it may be difficult to tell if your child is well enough to go to school. For parents who work during the day, keeping a child home can be an especially hard decision; not to mention the lessons they might miss and the risk of falling behind in school work. There are two important things to consider in deciding whether to send your child to school:

  • Does the child seem well enough to participate in a full day of school activities?
  • Are they at risk of transmitting their illness to other students or teachers?

The answer is not always clear and will require some judgment on the parent’s part. Here are some general guidelines to help:

  1. Children with a fever should stay home. This is generally defined as a temperature at or above 100.5 taken orally. With febrile illnesses, it is best to keep kids home until their temperature has returned to normal.
  2. Children with vomiting or diarrhea should stay home until these symptoms have resolved.
  3. A child with a mild cough and no fever can usually attend school, but a more severe cough will make it difficult for a child to function in school and is likely to expose other children.
  4. A child with an ear infection can attend school once the ear pain is under control.
  5. A child with a mild sore throat and no fever can generally go to school. Children diagnosed with strep throat need to stay home until they have been taking an antibiotic for 24 hours.
  6. Acute abdominal pain can be caused by many things and it can be difficult to determine the cause initially. If the child seems to be in significant pain or has other symptoms, such as fever, vomiting or diarrhea, it is best to keep them home and have them evaluated by a medical provider if symptoms do not improve quickly.
  7. Rashes are common in children and have many different causes. Most are not serious or contagious. If your child has a rash, but no fever or other symptoms, they are generally fine to go to school.
  8. Conjunctivitis (or pink eye) is common and often caused by a virus. If the eyes are mildly red without any drainage, no treatment is usually needed. If the child has thick eye drainage, it is best to see a medical provider. If antibiotic drops are started, the child can return to school the next day.

Many situations will not have a definitive answer, so parents will need to use their best judgment. If you aren’t sure, there are resources available to help. KidsDoc Symptom Checker can help you determine whether additional care is needed for your child, along with providing tips on relieving symptoms for minor illnesses. If you have questions, consider contacting the school nurse for their input, and you can always call our office to schedule an appointment or get advice.

Categories: Influenza/Colds, School
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