When Should Your Young Child Stay Home for Illness?



This time of year, it seems that most children are coughing and sniffling.  Coughs and runny noses can linger making it difficult to know when a young child should stay home from school. It is important to remember that when your children are fighting illness, their immune systems are weakened.  They risk not only spreading germs but contracting additional illnesses.  When you are unsure, consider the following:

  • Children who have had fever, vomited, or had diarrhea within the past 24 hours should not be sent to school.  Period.
  • Children who have a rash, symptoms of pink eye, lice or any other contagious diseases should be examined and cleared for school by a physician.  Preschools and public schools can provide you with the list of reasons that students are not permitted in school.
  • You can tell a great deal about how your child feels by observing behavior.  Children who are lethargic, not eating, not playing and/or are unusually cranky or annoyed by symptoms are not well enough to be in school.  When children play and behave normally when not on any medication, they are feeling better.  The temporary relief provided by Tylenol or other medication will not last and gives a false impression of your child’s well being.  As soon as the medicine wears off, the children go right back to being lethargic. 
  • Whenever you are unsure, ask yourself if you would be able to function at work with your child’s symptoms.  It isn’t true that your child will feel better when distracted at school.  Just like you try to function at work when feeling ill but don’t quite succeed, children have a hard time in school.  Once they are running around your house normally, they will do the same at school.  The ability to function doesn’t change from place to place.

As a parent when my boys were young, I learned through trial and error that my instincts were usually right.  When I was unsure and sent them anyway, I would inevitably get a phone call from the school.  Follow your instincts. 


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Copyright 2013 © Cindy Terebush
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