The decision to keep your child home from school can be a difficult one to make. Keeping your child home often comes along with a number of inconveniences from missed classes, to finding alternative care and everything else that comes with a day home from school. This time of year, illness runs rampant in schools. However, one of the most problematic reasons that illness spreads is due to sick children going to school when they should be kept at home.
So, should your child be kept at home, or should you feel comfortable sending them off to school? Here are a few things to look out for to help you make the right decision, and tips to help determine when it’s okay to send your child back to school.
Common Illnesses to Watch For
It’s very common for children to get sick during the school year. Although most infections are not dangerous, some—such as the flu—can come along with symptoms that are severe and uncomfortable. It’s important for parents to know which illnesses to watch for this time of year—here are some of the most common infections affecting school-aged children:
- Common Cold
- Influenza (“Flu”)
- Strep Throat
- Gastroenteritis (The “Stomach Flu”)
- Mononucleosis (“Mono”)
- Conjunctivitis (“Pinkeye”)
- Ear Infection
Look for Warning Signs
It’s easy to assume that your child is okay to go to school if he or she simply has a slight cough or complains of a headache. However, these can be early warning signs that they’ve come down with a virus, and it may in fact be wise to keep them home. There are a handful of warning signs that point to a definite need to keep your child home from school, including the following:
- Fever of 100°F or higher
- Redness or rash
- Vomiting or severe diarrhea
- Yellow or green sputum
- Painful sore throat
- Moderate-to-severe headache
- Severe fatigue
- Flu-like symptoms (body aches, chills etc.)
These signs and symptoms are often indicative of viral infection, such as cold or flu. It’s important to keep your child home to rest and seek treatment if they are experiencing any of the above symptoms. Additionally, viral infections are extremely contagious, and sending your child to school can put the greater population and other children at risk.
Knowing When It’s Time for Them to Return to School
If you’ve decided your child should stay home from school, the second question you might be asking yourself is for how long? This can vary significantly from one illness to another. The common cold, for example, may call for 1-2 days out of school, while being hit with the flu can sometimes mean staying out for an entire week if symptoms are severe. In general, your child should be ready to go back to school when symptoms begin to subside and they start feeling better. Signs your child is ready to return include the following:
- Fever is gone
- No vomiting or diarrhea for at least 24 hours
- No discolored pus or discharge
- Relief from sore throat
- No headache
Remember that every child is different, and some children may take longer than others to recover from similar illnesses. This is especially true if they’ve been treated with antibiotics, which do not always take effect immediately. A good rule to follow is that if they’re still not feeling or acting like themselves, it’s best to give it an extra day or two before sending them back to school.