Your child wakes up in the morning with a runny nose, cough and sore throat, which raises the dreaded question: should you keep him home from school or daycare? Some states have guidelines to advise parents on when it's okay to send a sick child to school and when it's best they remain at home. But if you just aren't sure if your child is really sick, how do you make this decision?

What to Consider

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the most important factors in this decision are symptoms and their severity. Here are some things to consider:

  • Does your child have a fever? AAP says that if your child has a fever at the onset of an illness, or at any time has a fever that is over 101 degrees, he or she should stay home. Further, after an illness, you should typically keep your child home until he or she has been fever free without taking a fever reducing for a full 24 hours to reduce risk of getting others sick.
  • Is your child exhibiting symptoms, such as extreme tiredness that would interfere with learning? If so, it is likely your child wouldn't have a productive day and would be better off at home.
  • Does your child have any vomiting or diarrhea? If so, this is definitely a time when to keep your child home from school.
  • Could the child's illness be contagious? While colds are not big concern since the germs are probably circulating around the classroom so keeping your child home may not prevent anyone else from getting sick and cold usually don't cause serious complications anyway, there are other illnesses that can be more serious. If you suspect you suspect your child could have the flu, a stomach bug or strep throat, then you should definitely err on the side of caution and keep your child home from school.

Ask an Expert When to Keep Your Child Home from School

Of course, knowing when to keep your child home from school can be much more complicated if taking this action causes you to miss an important meeting at work or makes you to be unable to live up to some other major commitment. Add into the equation the fact that some parents may be forced to suffer financial consequences, such as taking a day without pay in order to stay at home with a sick child, or paying a babysitter for the day. Either of these scenarios can put stress on families that are already struggling to make ends meet.

However, with the concern that exists this year about the Swine Flu (H1N1) outbreak, it is more important than ever before to know when keep your child home from school, since sending him or her with the flu or other contagious illness could pose a risk to the rest of the school, including the teachers and classmates. That's why the Centers for Disease Control is currently recommending that anyone exhibiting possible signs of this very contagious illness miss school or work and limit contact with others until the symptoms are completely resolved.

When in doubt, though, you may want to call your pediatrician and get an expert opinion on whether to keep your child home from school.


American Academy of Pediatrics

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention