When to keep your child home sick

It may be one of the hardest decisions parents make: When should you keep your kids home from school? How sick is sick enough?

If you face these questions a few times a year, you aren’t alone. In fact, a poll from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital found that most parents aren’t sure about when to send a sick child to school and when to keep him or her home.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents ask themselves three key questions when making the decision:

  1. Will your child’s symptoms keep him or her from participating in activities or classwork? If your child can’t participate in the educational activities taking place, there really isn’t a benefit to going to school.

He or she needs to be able to concentrate and have enough energy to function throughout the day.

  1. Will he or she require more attention or care than teachers can give? Teachers today are frequently tasked with overseeing the education and behavior of between 20 and 30 children. That can be a tough challenge even when all students are at their best.

If your child needs more TLC and personal attention than usual, it’s probably best to keep him or her at home.

  1. Could other children get sick from being near your child? You don’t want to expose other children to illness.

If you believe your child has a viral infection that could pass to another child — or if your child has been diagnosed with one — you’ll want to keep him or her away from other kids, even if your child doesn’t “feel” sick.

If you answer yes to any of those questions, it’s best to keep your child at home until he or she is feeling better.

The AAP also recommends you keep your little one home from school if he or she has a fever. Other symptoms that may merit keeping a child home include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Pink eye
  • Reduced (or no) appetite
  • Vomiting

Many illnesses can be remedied with rest and fluids. But seek medical attention if your child experiences:

  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea or vomiting for more than a few hours
  • Ear pain with a fever
  • Lingering cough
  • Severe sore throat

When it’s ok to go to school

If your child isn’t feeling at his or her best but isn’t feeling terrible, either, it may be fine to send him or her to school. For example, your child may be just fine at school if he or she feels congested, has a runny or stuffy nose, or has a minor sore throat. When it comes down to it, trust your judgment!

A pediatrician can help diagnose your child’s illness and get him or her on the path to feeling better. Need a doctor? Find one here.