children-homeworkChildren need to attend school regularly to get maximum benefit from their classes. A majority of parents make it a point to send their kids to school every day as children learn by interacting with other kids and enjoy physical activities during school hours. However, since kids are more susceptible to infections, they often catch a cold or other infectious disease from their classmates and wake up feeling ill in the morning. Making the decision then, to send a child to school or to keep him home is one that most parents have to face.

When to Keep a Child at Home
A parent has several ways to determine if a child is too sick to go to school. Making the right decision is sometimes difficult, but there are indicators that help you decide what’s best for the child.

  • A fever of 100.4 degrees or higher indicates that a child’s body is battling an infection and may be too sick to gain much benefit from classroom instruction.

  • A child who is vomiting, who has diarrhea or who is nauseated will not be able to sit through a day of classes.

  • Upper respiratory symptoms such as heavy coughing and a green or yellow nasal discharge may indicate the flu as well as the common cold.

  • A sudden severe sore throat accompanied by a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and tonsils and white or yellow spots in the throat are symptoms of a strep infection.

  • Red and irritated eyes with a yellowish discharge may indicate pink eye, or conjunctivitis. It is highly contagious.

  • An undiagnosed rash may be a symptom of an infectious disease such as measles, chicken pox or impetigo.

Ailments that Seem Minor
Parents often find themselves making a judgment call when a child complains of seemingly minor illnesses or vague symptoms.

  • A mild headache without other symptoms is often treated with ibuprofen at home and the child may be sent to school.

  • Earaches are not contagious, and a child may go to school if there are no other symptoms.

  • A child with a slight cough and mildly runny nose probably feels well enough to attend classes.

Home Health Tools

  • Parents can ask their children how they feel and then observe their behavior. For example, a sick child complaining of a stomachache will probably not want to eat his breakfast.

  • A thermometer lets you know your child’s exact body temperature.

  • Parents can treat mild aches, pains and headaches with ibuprofen and safely send their children to school.

Keeping a child at home if he seems very uncomfortable or if his symptoms worsen may be better than sending him to school. Also, you can send a note to the school teacher about your child’s health so they are aware and can monitor while the child is in the school.

Asking for Advice
Calling the school nurse is a good option.

  • The nurse can explain school policy about infectious diseases and how long a child should remain at home.

  • The school nurse is an important line of defense against the spread of illnesses such as flu, pink eye, strep throat, chickenpox, measles and colds.

  • The nurse’s office will also share information about headaches, earaches and other unknown symptoms.

The family doctor’s office is also a good resource for worried parents.

  • The staff can answer questions about symptoms and illnesses that are currently making the rounds among children and what course of action a parent might follow.

A visit to the doctor’s office is a good option

  • If a parent suspects his child has a contagious disease or develops a mysterious rash, difficulties with vision or hearing or a problem going to the bathroom may mean a trip to the emergency room.

Making the Decision
A parent using his intuition, bolstered by observing a child’s behavior and symptoms, is better equipped to make the right decision about school attendance. While going to school regularly is very important, a sick child in the classroom probably will not be able to learn well and may spread a contagious disease to his classmates.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Michele Holincheck, FNP