Pediatrics | Published November 2, 2018 | Written by Craig Collison, MD, pediatrician, Mount Nittany Physician Group Family Medicine

Is my child too sick to go to school?

It’s not uncommon for children to have a half dozen colds or illnesses throughout the school year, but as a parent, knowing when to keep your kids home can be tricky.

While it’s ultimately a decision that should be made on a case-by-case basis, there are a few scenarios in which a child should NOT go to school:

  1. Fever: Children with fevers greater than 100.4 degrees should not go to school. Once your child has a fever, he or she should be fever-free for at least 24 hours before returning to school.
  2. Vomiting: Children who are vomiting should not go to school. Your child can go back to school when he or she has not vomited for at least 24 hours.
  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 eyes, should not go to school and should not return until they have been treated with antibiotic drops for 24 hours.
  5. Cough: Kids who are continuously coughing should stay home from school. Frequent coughing makes it impossible to pay attention, distracts other children, and potentially spreads infection in the classroom.
  6. 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 do not have a fever and are not coughing too frequently. Teach your kids to use tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their arm, 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 an evaluation by a pediatric healthcare provider can help you decide what to do.

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