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1/24/20 blog post

too sick for school?

We’ve all experienced it: your kids wake up in the morning and are complaining of a runny nose or another sickness symptom and seem to be dragging with little energy. Your next move is to quickly check for fever and any other symptoms that may be present. Finally, you start questioning, should they go to school today or stay home because they are sick?

We’ve all had that feeling of indecisiveness that may make us question whether or not we are making the right choice. While it may seem tough to make the right decision to send your kids to school or not when they are not feeling well, with the right tips, that decision can come a little quicker.

Dr. Jennifer Hilgeman, M.D., pediatrician at Dayton Children’s Pediatrics at Dayton Children's Hospital, says to consider keeping your kids home from school if they are experiencing:

  1. Fever higher than 100.4 degrees (taken by mouth)
  2. Any illness you know is contagious – strep throat, influenza and pink eye are examples
  3. Sore throat lasting more than 48 hours especially with a fever
  4. Diarrhea or vomiting
  5. Significant rash on the body, especially with other symptoms
  6. Severe earache, headache, sore throat, cough or pain from an injury that disrupts activity
  7. Wheezing or shortness of breath

As a parent, you can also trust your instincts. If your kids have the sniffles but have not slowed down at home, chances are they may be well enough for the classroom. On the other hand, if they have been coughing all night and need to be woken up in the morning, they may need to rest at home. Kids who show signs of fatigue, are clingy, complain of pain, or who just don't seem to be acting "themselves" should also stay home from school if you feel they are not well enough to participate in school activities.

If you decide that your child is well enough to go to school, check with the school or provider center first. Most childcare centers, preschools, and grade schools have rules about when to keep kids home. For example, pinkeye or strep throat usually necessitates a day home with appropriate treatment. Usually, kids cannot return to school or childcare until at least 24 hours after a fever has broken naturally.

If you have any questions if they should stay home from school, be sure to talk to your primary care provider to help you make the best choice as their symptoms may warrant a visit to your doctor.


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Jennifer Hilgeman, MD, IBCLC, FAAP

general pediatrics
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