How do you know when your child should stay home from school or day care? Start with these three short questions:
- Does your child have a fever? Fevers over 100.4° F indicate illness, so no school.
- Is your child well enough to participate in class? If too tired, sleepy, or too quiet to get much out of school, keep them home.
- Is this illness possibly contagious, like the flu or pinkeye? If so, no school until they’re no longer infectious.
Fever: Fever helps fight germs and is a symptom of infections. Take your child’s temperature before using fever reducing medication like Tylenol or Motrin. Wait until fever-free for 24 hours before letting them return to school.
Vomiting and Diarrhea
- Diarrhea may be the result of infection, food poisoning, or a side effect of antibiotics. Keep children home until stools are at least soft and fewer than 3 per day. Offer fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Vomiting relieves the body of the stress of digesting food and allows it to focus on healing. Vomiting two or more times in 24 hours means stay at home.
- Vomiting or diarrhea is an automatic pass for that day.
Coughs and Colds
- Mild cough and cold symptoms should not keep kids home from school or daycare, even if the mucus is green or yellow, as long as there is no fever.
- A serious cough could be a sign of contagious conditions like whooping cough, viral bronchitis, croup, RSV, or pneumonia. It may be a sign of asthma or allergies. Coughs lasting two weeks or more need to be evaluated. Some coughs can take weeks to disappear, so send to her back to school if the cough is not disruptive.
Sore throats: Sore throats can be a symptom of strep or a virus. Severe pain could mean strep, but strep does not always cause high fever and the tonsils are not always swollen. A diagnosis of strep throat, means keep your child at home for 36 hours after starting antibiotics. Another possible cause is mono which even young children can catch.
Pinkeye (conjunctivitis): Look for redness of the white part of the eye with crusty, draining yellow or green pus. Pink eye is contagious, and like strep, children should stay home from school for 36 hours after beginning treatment.
Rashes: Rashes with fever can be the sign of contagious conditions such as chickenpox, fifth disease, or bacterial meningitis. Eczema, allergies or just extremely dry skin can cause suspicious rashes but without fever. Children with fever should stay home until diagnosed. They can return to school after their doctor gives the okay or the rash fades.
Earaches: A child with a mild earache may attend school, as long the pain does not interfere with concentration.