News | Published September 21, 2012 | Written by Craig Collison, MD

Is your child too sick to go to school?

How can you determine if your child is too sick to go to school? Parents have always had this dilemma: Do you send your child to school knowing he may infect everyone around him or keep him home and set him back in his schoolwork? If your child stays home, there may also be the issue of supervision for him if both parents work.

Below are some symptoms that exclude children from attending school:

  1. Fever - Children with fever greater than 100.4 should not go to school. Once there is a fever, children should be fever-free for at least 24 hours before they return to school.
  2. Vomiting - Children who are vomiting should not go to school and should be vomit-free for 24 hours prior to going back to school.
  3. Diarrhea - Any child with loose stool that occurs more than four times in a 24-hour period should stay home until the frequency slows down.
  4. Pink eye - Children with redness of the eyes plus drainage from one or both should not go to school, and should not return until they have been treated with antibiotic drops for 24 hours.
  5. Cough - This symptom is more subjective, but kids who are continuously coughing should stay home from school. Frequent coughing makes it impossible to pay attention, distracts the children around them and potentially spreads infection in the classroom.
  6. Chicken pox - With immunization, this isn't seen as often now, but is still a reason to keep your child home from school. If you think your child's rash is possibly chicken pox, it is a good idea to see your pediatrician before sending your child to school.
  7. Strep throat - Children with diagnosed strep throat should stay out of school until they have received antibiotic treatment for 24 hours. Symptoms of significant sore throat, fever and swollen glands warrant a trip to the pediatrician to check whether it is strep or a virus causing the sore throat.

Children can go to school with a cold (upper respiratory infection) as long as they don't have fever and aren't coughing too frequently. Teach your kids to use tissues, cough and sneeze into their elbow, and wash their hands frequently. Sinus infections and ear infections are not contagious, so kids can go to school with them if they are feeling okay.

If you are ever in doubt about sending your child to school, getting him evaluated by his pediatrician can help you decide what to do.

For more information on your child's health, visit mountnittany.org, or contact our Bellefonte pediatrics office at 814.355.3626, or our Boalsburg pediatrics office at 814.466.7921.

About the Author

Craig Collison, MD

Craig H. Collison, MD, is a pediatrician with Mount Nittany Physician Group. He treats patients from the Physician Group's Boalsburg and Bellefonte locations. Read more about pediatric care at www.mountnittany.org/pediatrics.

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