Deciding when to keep a sick child home from school is not always easy. It’s important for children to attend school and for some parents keeping a sick child home means missing work. But when a child is truly sick, they need to stay home in the care of an adult to get well and to prevent others from getting sick.
Here are 10 tips to help you decide whether or not to keep your child at home. When in doubt, contact your school nurse or pediatrician for advice.
1. No symptoms, but not feeling right?
If your child says they are not feeling well, but otherwise has no symptoms, your child can most likely go to school. The school will call you if something develops during the day. Be sure to contact your pediatrician if the complaints continue or other symptoms develop.
2. Feeling hot, hot, hot.
Fever usually indicates that the body is battling an infection. A child with a fever greater than 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit needs to stay home from school until the fever is gone for at least 24 hours. If the fever does not go away in 2 to 3 days, call your doctor to have your child checked out.
3. Things that go bump & itch.
A rash alone is not a reason to keep a child home from school. But rashes that are itchy or scaly could be contagious and should be evaluated before sending a child back to school. Any rash along with symptoms like trouble breathing or swallowing, or a fever, should be evaluated by your doctor immediately.
4. Cough alone.
If your child has a cough alone, it shouldn’t prevent them from going to school. However, if it interferes with their sleep or the ability to participate in school activities, is a cough with phlegm, is combined with a fever or trouble breathing, keep your child home and have them seen by the pediatrician. Remember to teach your child to cover their cough/sneeze with their arm or a tissue to prevent spreading germs.
5. Situations with stool?
Stool problems can require a child to stay home from school. This is especially true with diarrhea when the stool frequency is many times an hour. Diarrhea that is bloody or joined with fever, abdominal pain, or vomiting should be reported to your pediatrician. Diarrhea can dehydrate anyone very easily. Make sure they drink plenty of fluids if this happens.
6. Need a bucket?
A child who is vomiting needs to stay home from school. Your child can return to school when the symptoms have stopped and the child can tolerate a regular diet.
7. Sore throat.
A mildly sore throat is not enough reason to stay home. However, if there is also fever, vomiting, abdominal pain or difficulty swallowing, they should visit the pediatrician before returning to school. A child with a diagnosis of strep throat needs to stay out of school until on antibiotics for 24 hours.
8. Use your best judgment.
If your child seems really sick, keep your child home and see the doctor that day. If you can’t get into your doctor, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.
9. Ask questions.
Most doctor’s offices will let you talk to a nurse to determine if a visit is needed and will answer your questions about how to care for a sick child. Call anytime you are unsure of what to do.
10. Prevent disease.
As always, frequent hand washing, blowing noses into tissues, covering mouths when coughing or sneezing, and asking other parents about sick symptoms in their kids before arranging play dates and carpools can prevent the spread of disease. Sometimes staying home is the only way to help our kids, ourselves and our communities.
Source: Pediatrics Now, adapted by the Lorain County General Health District