When to Keep Your Child Home From School

  • It’s early morning on a school day.  Everyone is rushing through the house trying to get ready for the day ahead.  In the middle of it all, your child tells you that he doesn’t feel well.  Now what?  Do you keep him home or send him to school?  Throughout the school year, many parents are confronted with this dilemma. Here are some guidelines to follow when deciding whether or not to send your child to school.

    FEVER:  If your child had a fever of 101 degrees or higher the night before or if his temp is 100 degrees or higher before school, it is important to keep him home and resting until he has been fever free for at least 24 hours.  During a fever, children are considered to be in the most contagious phase of an illness.  Also, allowing him to rest and to have access to plenty of fluids helps him to re-hydrate and to recuperate much faster.

    VOMITING:  If your child has been vomiting the night before or has started vomiting in the morning and has other flu-like symptoms, please keep him home from school.  The exception to this rule is if your child tends to vomit easily.  If the vomiting is limited to a single episode and you can attribute it to a certain situation, such as something the child has eaten the night before, a day home from school may not be necessary.

    DIARRHEA:  This is usually a sign of a contagious illness, especially if your child is nauseated or has a fever.  At this time, it is very important that your child stay home from school until he has recovered from his illness.

    SORE THROAT:  If your child’s sore throat is accompanied by a fever, or his throat is very inflamed, he should stay home.  Strep throat is extremely contagious and can result in serious complications.  It is absolutely necessary that your child see his physician as soon as possible.  Children with strep infections may return to school after they have been treated with antibiotics for at least 24 hours and are free of fever.  Otherwise, if your child’s throat is not inflamed and he does not have a temp, it may not require a day off.  Often, many children will complain of a sore throat when they have nasal congestion.  This could be a sign of post nasal drip which irritates the throat.  It is very wise to encourage fluids during this time.  Fluids will soothe the throat.  Try to avoid dairy products which will create more mucous and irritation in the throat.

    UNDIAGNOSED SKIN RASHES:  Unless you know the cause of the skin rash and know that it is not contagious, it is best to consult a pediatrician before sending your child to school.  Some rashes represent the ending of an illness and are not contagious.  Some children will develop a rash with strep throat. This is scarlet fever or scarletina and the same requirements for strep throat should be followed. If your child develops a rash while taking medication, it is very important to discontinue the medication and to call the doctor immediately.  Allergic reactions to medication can occur at any time during the course of treatment, even at the end.

    EYE DISCHARGE:  Children who have bloodshot eyes with yellow or greenish drainage may have conjunctivitis.  This is a very contagious eye condition otherwise know as “pinkeye.”  Children with pinkeye may not attend school until they have been treated with antibiotic drops as prescribed by a doctor.  Allergy eyes, while not contagious, can be just as uncomfortable as conjunctivitis and should be treated as well. However, a child with “allergy eyes” does not have to stay home unless he is extremely uncomfortable.

    OTHER conditions that require a day home from school are an active case of head lice, drainage from one or both ears, complaint of pain in one or both ears, persistent cough, and shortness of breath with persistent cough. 

    Don’t forget, the best way to stay healthy is to get plenty of sleep, good nutrition, and most importantly, frequent hand washing.  Have a healthy and a safe school year.