When To Keep a Child Home With Illness
Adapted from information provided by New York Statewide School Health Services Center, © Dr. Cindy Devore, MD
Sometimes it can be difficult for a parent to decide whether to send a child to school when he wakes up with early symptoms of an illness. In general, unless your child is significantly ill, the best place for him is in school, where he has already been exposed to the same germs and where he is less likely to expose other more vulnerable people, like the very young or very old.
Remind and show your child to discard used tissues promptly, not to share personal items, to cover his mouth when he coughs or sneezes, to keep his hands away from his face, and to wash hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water. To ensure sufficient washing time, suggest that he silently sing the Happy Birthday song twice while washing his hands.
However, there are some situations in which it is best to plan on keeping your child home for a day to rest or to arrange for an appointment with your health care provider. The following are a few such situations that warrant watching and possibly conferring with your health care provider:
- Persistent fever over 100° F orally, including a fever that requires control with medication, like Tylenol
- Child is too sleepy or ill from an illness, like vomiting and/or diarrhea, to profit from sitting in class all day. Students should not return to school unless they have been free of vomiting/diarrhea/fever x 24 hours!
- Cough accompanied by fever over 100° F; or significant cough that makes a child feel uncomfortable or disrupts the class
- Sore throat accompanied by fever over 100° F; or severe sore throat accompanied by feeling ill persisting longer than 48 hours or after known exposure to a confirmed case of Streptococcal throat infection or H1N1 (Swine) Flu
- Honey-crusted sores around the nose or mouth that might be impetigo; or a rash in various stages including boils, sores and bumps that may be chicken pox; or a significant rash accompanied by other symptoms of illness such as fever
- Red, watery eyes or eyes with sticky matter, as these could be symptoms of a contagious eye condition such as pink eye
- Large amount of discolored nasal discharge, especially if accompanied by facial pain or headache
- Severe ear pain or drainage from the ear
- Severe headache, especially if accompanied by fever
Any condition that you think may be serious or contagious to others
If you send your child to school even though you suspect there is significant illness as described above, please call the school nurse to provide her with phone numbers where you can be reached that day, should your child become more ill and require early dismissal.
Finally, if you know your child is still running a fever, it is not a good idea to simply load him/her up with Tylenol and send her to school, because as soon as the medicine wears off you are apt to get the dreaded call from the school nurse to come to pick up your feverish child. It is better to let him/her stay home in bed with a fever and take her medications at home until he/she is off all medicines and ready to learn for a full day in a classroom.
If you find a pattern of your child’s asking to stay home from school, especially if she is falling behind or appears anxious by the thought of attending school, or if there does not appear to be any obvious physical symptom, it may be a good idea to contact your school nurse and your health care provider to discuss your concerns.
Remember, whenever you keep your child home from school, please call the Attendance Office at 366-9300 ext *3381 in advance of the start of the school day and leave a message that your child will be absent.