Knowing whether a child is well enough to go to school can be tough for any parent. Sometimes, it’s clear a child is too sick to go to school or daycare because he’s sluggish, lost his appetite and isn’t playing well.
But, there are other times it’s questionable whether to keep him home, like when he’s a little tired with the sniffles, but doesn’t have a fever.
“It often comes down to common sense and whether your child feels well enough to perform well in school,” said Dr. Sarah Ayers, a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics, Kent. “Having a sore throat, mild cough and congestion doesn’t always mean a child can’t handle class and other activities.”
When in doubt, check in. Dr. Ayers suggests contacting your child’s pediatrician or calling Ask Children’s (330-543-2000). In addition, be sure to consult the rules from your child’s daycare, preschool or grade school, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics school exclusion chart to help you decide whether or not your child needs to take a sick day.
As a general rule, Dr. Ayers offers Dos and Don’ts for sending your child to school when he’s feeling under the weather.
Don’t send your child to school when:
- He has cold symptoms with a fever, severe cough (such as barking or wheezing) and a behavior change, such as acting really ill and loss of appetite.
“Colds last about 2 weeks, so you can’t keep them out for that entire time,” said Dr. Ayers. “So, when your child is fever-free for 24 hours, you can send them back to school.”
- He is nauseated and vomited in the last 24 hours. Chances are he won’t feel well enough to participate in school anyhow.
- He has diarrhea that isn’t contained in the toilet, or he has diarrhea that contains blood or mucous. If he develops a fever or shows signs of dehydration, it’s best to keep him home and seek medical attention.
- He has strep throat. He will need a dose or 2 of antibiotics before he can return to school, which can mean staying home the day after diagnosis.
- He has Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. Because it’s very contagious, he should be kept home until his fever has been gone for 24 hours.
“Never send a child to school who has a fever, is nauseated or vomiting, or has diarrhea,” warned Dr. Ayers. “Kids who lose their appetite, are clingy or lethargic, complain of pain, are drooling with mouth sores, or who just don’t seem like themselves should also take a sick day.”
Do send your child to school when:
- He has pink eye and has received his first treatment of antibiotics. He can return to school the next morning after treatment.
- He has a sinus or ear infection and is feeling well enough to participate in school.
- He has lice, scabies or ringworm and has received his first treatment. He can return to school immediately after his first treatment.
- He has a headache and is still able to participate in school activities.
- He has mouth sores, unless he has trouble swallowing or has excessive drooling.
- He has a rash, unless it appears infected, is oozing or he develops a fever.
- He has a stomachache, unless he complains of severe pain and is acting ill, begins to vomit or develops a fever.
“It’s important to remember to go with your gut,” said Dr. Ayers. “You know your child best. If your son has the sniffles, but hasn’t slowed down at home, chances are he’s well enough for the classroom. But, if he’s been coughing all night and has a hard time getting up in the morning, he might need to take it easy at home.”
If you have additional questions, contact an Akron Children’s pediatrician or Ask Children’s at 330-543-2000. You can also download Akron Children’s Anywhere app for our Symptom Checker. Our Quick Care Online™ Virtual Visits are also an option for those under age 18.