I'm usually a good judge of when my kids are too sick to go to school or daycare.
But other times — like when they're dragging but have no fever — I'm just not sure.
How can I tell when they're well enough to go to school and when they should stay
home? – Allyson
Knowing whether a child is well enough to go to school can be tough for any parent.
It often comes down to whether a child can still participate at school. Having a sore throat,
cough, or mild congestion doesn't always mean a child can't handle class and other
When in doubt, check in first. Most childcares, preschools, and grade schools have
rules about when to keep kids home. For example, kids with strep
throat need a dose or two of antibiotics first, which can mean staying home the
day after diagnosis (or possibly longer).
Fever with no other
symptoms usually isn't reason enough for a child to stay home. But many schools or
childcare centers request that a child not return until at least 24 hours after a
fever has broken naturally (without fever-reducing medicines).
should be dry and crusted over before kids go back to school (usually this takes about
6 days). Other
infections — like rubella,
and hepatitis A
— have specific guidelines for returning to school. Your doctor can help you figure
shouldn't keep kids out of school. If the problem is found by the teacher or school
nurse, the child should stay in school until the end of the day. Kids who get their
first treatment after school should be able to return to the classroom the next morning.
Kids with colds, coughs, or pinkeye
can go to school if they feel well enough, don't have a fever, and don't need so much
care that they will burden the teachers. Some schools or childcare centers require
time at home or a doctor's note for pinkeye, so ask about their policies.
Of course, never send a child to school who has a fever, is nauseated or vomiting,
or has diarrhea. Kids
who lose their appetite, are clingy or lethargic, complain of pain, are drooling with
mouth sores, or who just don't seem like themselves should also take a sick day. If
your child will need more care than the teacher can provide, it's only fair to the
other kids that your child stay home.
Most important, go with your gut. You know your kids best. If your son has the
sniffles but hasn't slowed down at home, chances are he's well enough for the classroom.
But if he's been coughing all night and has a hard time getting up in the morning,
he might need to take it easy at home.