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Too Sick for Daycare?

It’s 7 a.m. on a Monday and you’re scrambling to get ready for work. Suddenly you hear a whine, and your runny-nosed, red-cheeked toddler stands in the hallway looking at you through droopy eyes.


You consider the busy workday ahead of you and the professional consequences of staying home with your sick child. On the other hand, she obviously needs some TLC. And is it a minor case of the sniffles or the full-blown flu? Your mind races frantically.

How to Know
The first thing to do is determine whether she is too sick for daycare. Most facilities have a set of written rules for when to keep children home. Individual guidelines vary, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping kids home if they have any of the following:

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea or stools containing blood or mucus
  • Vomiting
  • Impetigo (skin infection)
  • Head lice
  • Scabies
  • Mouth sores with drooling

You know your child best, though, and sometimes you have to go with your gut.


“As a parent, I know if my boy isn't himself,” says Butler dad Brian Phillips. “He and I are very routine-driven people, and if he's out of sorts, I can tell by his behavior, his appearance and his appetite.”


Tonganoxie mom Bridgette Halterman has a rule when it comes to her girls’ staying home: “Usually if they are too sick to get up and play, I feel they are too sick for daycare.”

The Work Thing

Once you have made the decision to keep your child out of daycare, what do you do about work? In a perfect world, you would call your boss, explain the situation, and her response would be to stay home as long as you need to nurse your little one back to good health.


But, of course, it’s not a perfect world. There are meetings, deadlines and coworkers counting on you to do your job, and calling in at 8 a.m. is not always an option.


The important thing is to have a plan in place BEFORE your baby gets sick. Here are some options to consider:

  • Shift work Share nurse duties with your partner if possible. “My husband and I will try to split a day if we have important meetings scheduled,” says Olathe mom Kindra Sheridan. “If we can’t split a day, we will take turns calling in and staying home so neither of us misses too much time/days in a row.”
  • Work from home It’s the digital age, and many jobs can be done from home. Perhaps you can teleconference into meetings from home or work on projects from your laptop. The key is to make sure you can get your work done AND care for your sick child.
  • Family Favors Is Grandma nearby? Does your sister owe you a favor? How about Aunt Edna? Oftentimes family members are happy to pitch in when you can’t miss work. You might want to bring them dinner or treat them to an evening out as a thank you, but at least you can ease your mind knowing your baby is in good hands.
  • Avant-garde employers Raymore mom Melissa Craker says her husband has flexibility in his job. “They have a policy that if the employee’s kids are sick, they are allowed to stay home and take care of them. They don't even charge a sick day.” Ask your employer if they would consider adopting such a plan, and find out a prospective employer’s sick child policy on your next job search.
  • Network Talk with other parents, neighbors, retirees or anyone who might be able to pitch in or recommend alternate caregivers when your baby is sick. Other parents are in the same boat as you and may be willing to trade off childcare on sick days.

Craker sums up the dilemma every working parent faces: “As a parent with a sick child and as an employee, there will always be a little bit of guilt that something is not getting your full attention.”


Hopefully, your tot’s sick days are few and far between, and you have a plan in place before pesky germs invade your house.

Tisha Foley is currently a stay-at-home mom but remembers the work/sick child dilemma all too well. She and her family live in Belton.

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