Sick Day or School Day?

When my daughter started kindergarten, she learned real quick how to play the “sick” card. I remember once she had a new toy she wanted to stay home and play with. That morning at school she was miraculously ill and threw up. When I brought her home, she was fit as a fiddle.

No, she didn’t get to play with that toy.

The Age Old Struggle

You think your kid is sick, so you keep them home and they feel fine. Or, you think your kid is fine and send them school, only to have to pick them up during the day.

The struggle is that it is near impossible to predict if your child is going to feel worse or better. You also have to take the other children into consideration: do you want to risk having other people’s children get sick as well?

It always comes down to making that call at the last moment, but I hope the following information helps you to make an informed decision:

Have a Sick Day

The basic rule of keeping your kid home is to do so if they are infected (and, therefore, contagious) or if they are unable to function at their normal level of energy.

Diarrhea and vomiting more than twice in a 24 hour period should be an automatic sick day. One bout of diarrhea or vomiting may be caused by a sensitive stomach but anything more than that indicates the possibility of an infection.

Fevers are often an indicator of infection. If a fever is 38.5°C (101.4°F) or higher, and/or accompanied by a rash, your child should stay home.

Lethargy is a sure sign your little one is not well enough to go to school. If he or she is showing signs of diminished energy, it means their bodies are fighting off some sort of infection or bug. It may be something as simple as the common cold but, if they don’t have the energy to participate in school day activities and classes, they should stay home.

Even if your child has a common cold, their symptoms may be severe enough to warrant a day home. Excessive mucus from the nose or a deep, rattling cough is enough to make getting through the day difficult. Give them one day of rest and see if the symptoms subside.

If ever you are unsure as to whether or not to keep your child home, check with the school’s policies on sick days to help you decide. Some policies will state in detail the symptoms to look for when considering whether or not to send your child to school. Others may indicate a period of time your child is required to stay out of school (such as cases with pink eye or other infections).

Get to School

It’s important to note that most illnesses are contagious long before they are symptomatic. This means that your child could be spreading an infection or cold before you even know you have one.

That’s why, in the case of a runny nose or slight cough, it’s perfectly okay to send your child to school. As long as there are no indications of infection such as fever or vomiting, simply treat the symptoms, pack the tissue and send them off.

Same goes for redness of the eye. As long as there is no discharge or signs of pink eye, they should be fine to go to school.

Basically, as a rule of thumb, if your child is energetic and alert then they should not be kept home.

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