Sick kids: when to send them or keep them home

Sometimes it’s a judgment call about when to keep a sick kid home or send them to school. Kids can’t stay home for every ache and pain, even though they might want to. But sending a legitimately sick kid to school could make matters worse. Here are some guidelines:

When to send them

  • A common cold or runny nose.
  • A cough not associated with a fever, rapid or difficult breathing, or wheezing.
  • Pink eye after symptoms have faded or after 24 hours of treatment from a doctor.
  • Watery, yellow or white discharge or crusting eye discharge without fever, eye pain or eyelid redness.
  • A fever without any other symptoms. The AAP states: “A fever is an indication of the body’s response to something, but is neither a disease nor a serious problem by itself.” A fever is defined as a temperature above 101 degrees.
  • A rash without fever and behavioral changes. (Exception: Call 911 for rapidly spreading bruising or small blood spots under the skin.)
  • Lice, as long as the child has started treatment and has no live lice.

When to stay home

  • A fever over 100° (Fahrenheit)
  • For 24 hours after starting an antibiotic
  • For 24 hours after symptoms of stomach flu have subsided (such as vomiting or diarrhea)
  • A persistent cough or chest pain, or if your child is having a hard time swallowing
  • An earache with persistent pain
  • Crusty, draining and red eyes
  • An unfamiliar rash, or a rash that hasn’t been examined by a doctor
  • Any illness that prevents the child from participating comfortably in school activities.
  • Vomiting more than two times in the past 24 hours.
  • Abdominal pain that continues for more than two hours.
  • Mouth sores with drooling that the child cannot control.
  • A rash with fever or behavioral changes.
  • Strep throat, until the child has two doses of antibiotic.
  • Head lice, only if the child has not been treated or if there is live lice present.
  • Chickenpox (varicella), until all lesions have dried or crusted.

See this source for more details. Our school nurse also has more information at her School Health website.

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