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When to Keep Children Home Sick from School

Tips to help parents know when to keep children home sick from school. Now that cold and flu season is in full swing, it’s time to look at some basic ways to tell if you should send your child off to school, or… head straight to a doctor’s waiting room. That material from this article was compiled courtesy of a Rochester Community School Nurse and former Crittenton Hospital nurse.


When your child comes to you with the “I-don’t-feel-good-I-don’t-think-I-can-go-to-school” routine, here are some guidelines to help you determine when to keep your child home from school.

When to Keep Children Home Sick from School

  • A fever 100º F or higher. Your child should be fever free for 24 hours before returning to school.
  • A consistent, goopy, runny nose.
  • White or yellow drainage from the eye, crusty eyes, and/or redness of the eyelid or skin surrounding the eye.
  • A bad cough – one that you wouldn’t want your well child around.
  • A sore throat, especially with fever or swollen glands in the neck.
  • Shortness of breath or other problems with normal breathing.
  • A child that seems ill – unusually tired, pale, difficult to wake, headache, body ache, confused or irritable, and/or lack of normal appetite.
  • A rash that is associated with fever or severe itching.
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea within the last 24 hours or as directed by your physician.  Your child should be free of vomiting for 24 hours before returning to school.
  • Diarrhea and/or bloody diarrhea. It is recommended that a child who has two diarrhea episodes or one bloody diarrhea episode at school must be sent home and unable to return until the diarrhea has resolved. Some diarrhea may be related to bacterial or viral germs. You are recommended to contact your health care provider if your child has severe or bloody diarrhea for possible treatment.
    If your health care provider has prescribed antibiotics, your child needs to remain at home for at least 24 hours after starting antibiotics.
  • Any infectious or contagious disease that can infect other children such as chicken pox, influenza, whooping cough or gastroenteritis.
  • As directed by your child’s health care provider.

If you have any concerns about any of the above symptoms please contact your health care provider.

Germs in School – How they spread

Germs spread through different routes. Cold and influenza viruses most often spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets by sneezing and coughing. Germs also spread by touching surfaces contaminated with respiratory droplets. Desks, doorknobs, pencils, and other commonly touched items can be contaminated when a person who coughs in their hands then touches the surface. For you to become infected, you may touch the surface and then rub your eyes, scratch your nose or eat, allowing the germs to enter your body.

How to Prevent Germs in School

Preventing the spread of germs comes down to the basics. Practice excellent hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette will prevent the spread of germs. Hand washing with warm water and soap will reduce your chances of being infected.  Teach your child to wash their hands properly. Covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing will prevent the spread of germs.  Also teach your child to cover his or her cough and sneeze. If you are ill, stay home. This will prevent germs from spreading throughout your work community. Children should also be kept at home if they are ill to prevent germs from spreading in their school.

See related posts for more Back to School articles and more tips for when to keep children home sick from school.

This article was originally posted in 2010.

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