To School or Not to School

Your child wakes up with a sore throat and you begin an internal debate of whether to keep her home or send her to school. On one hand, you do not want your child to struggle through the school day feeling ill. On the other hand, having your child catch up on schoolwork and taking a day off of work yourself can be difficult—especially if your child feels fine after getting the day started. How is a parent to know when it’s best to keep kids home to rest and reduce the risk of spreading illness to others? Let’s look at some common symptoms kids have and when it’s okay to go to school and when it’s best to stay home and recuperate.

Symptom - Fever

If your child wakes up with a fever over 101 degrees, he should stay home from school. Giving ibuprofen or acetaminophen will help bring your child’s fever down, but take the temperature before giving any medicine to determine whether your child should go to school that day or not. A child with a fever is most likely contagious, so keep him home.

Symptom - Sore throat

If your child has a mild sore throat due to allergies or cold symptoms, she is most likely well enough to attend school. If the sore throat is severe, your child could be dealing with strep throat, which requires a visit to the doctor to be tested. If your child tests positive for strep throat, she should be on antibiotics for 24 hours before returning to school to avoid spreading the illness.

Symptom - Pink eye

Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is extremely contagious. If your child has yellow/green discharge coming out of his eye or the white of the eye is a pink color, then keep him home until he’s seen a doctor. Most schools will require a physician’s note saying the child is well enough to return to school, or that the child take antibiotic eye drops for 24 hours before coming back to class.

Symptom - Headache

If your child wakes with a headache but does not have a fever, you are likely safe to send her to school. However, if your child is excessively tired or has other symptoms besides just a mild headache, she may be coming down with something. Staying home to rest might be best.

Symptom - Rash

If your child has a rash from an unknown source, keep him home until you are able to see a doctor to determine the cause. Rashes can be caused by many things and some of them are contagious. If you know the cause of your child’s rash—such as ringworm or impetigo—use the appropriate measures to ensure it doesn’t spread.

Symptom - Earache

If your child has ear pain and no other symptoms, she is not contagious and technically can go to school. If the ear pain is causing discomfort, loss of sleep or a fever, staying home to recuperate may be the best choice.

Symptom - Tummy troubles

If your child is having diarrhea or is vomiting, he will need to take the day off from school. Not only is he contagious, but he probably isn’t up for his usual routine anyway.

Symptom - Cold symptoms

Children suffering mild cold symptoms, such as clear runny nose, mild sore throat and mild fatigue, are allowed to attend school. Keep in mind that even though cold symptoms don’t affect anyone’s ability to participate in normal activities, they may render your child contagious. Take care to practice frequent hand washing, cover that cough and get dirty tissues into the trash can.

Symptom - Cough

You cannot keep your kids home from school and activities every time they cough, but kids with a severe cough should stay home from school. Likewise, children who are experiencing shortness of breath or wheezing should stay home and see the family doctor.

When it comes to the decision of whether to keep your children home or send them to school, use common sense. If you saw another child with the same symptoms at school, would you want her to be around your healthy child? If your child has extreme fatigue or generally feels unwell, it might be the sign of something to come, and resting at home may be best. Usually, when it comes to stopping the spread of illness, it’s better to be safe than sorry. When in doubt, keep your children home until they are back to their normal, active selves.




Tips to Keep Sickness Away

Follow these tips from the CDC to help keep sickness out of your home.

  • Practice good hand washing.
  • Cover your cough.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Get vaccinated.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces at home, work and school.
  • Practice good sleeping habits.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.

Sarah Lyons is a mom of six that resides in Olathe.

As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.

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