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Early in the morning, it is often difficult to make a decision about whether or not your child is too sick to go to school. With minor symptoms, you often cannot tell whether she is going to get better or worse during the course of the school day.
As a rule of thumb, a child should stay home if he has:

  • A fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Vomited (not caused by motion sickness or a gag reflex unassociated with illness)
  • Diarrhea
  • A very frequent cough
  • Persistent pain (tooth, ear, stomach, etc)
  • A widespread rash
Most of these problems need to be discussed with your child’s healthcare provider to determine if an office visit is needed. On the other hand, children who don’t have a fever and only have a mild cough, runny nose or other cold/allergy symptoms usually can be sent to school without any harm to themselves or others. The following guidelines may help in your decision process:

Rhinitis (“Runny Nose”): This is how many children respond to pollen, dust, or a cold virus. Minor cold or allergy symptoms should not be reason to miss school. Keep him at home if he is too uncomfortable to function at school, or he has a fever >100.4 degrees.

Coughs: Keep her home if a cough appears to get worse as her activity level increases or if she has other symptoms, such as a fever. If the cough is persistent during the day, it can indicate a worsening cold or allergy symptoms. It may be a sign of a secondary infection (sinusitis, bronchitis), which may require medical treatment. If your child’s cough is due to asthma, contact the Health Office or school nurse before bringing inhalers to school.

Ear infections: Viruses that cause ear infections are contagious, but ear infections themselves are not. Your child can return to school once he has seen his healthcare provider and has started medication (antibiotics, pain medication, etc).

Strep throat and scarlet fever are two highly contagious conditions caused by the same bacterial infection. Your child may complain of a sudden sore throat, stomachache and headache. With scarlet fever, a rash appears within 48 hours. A child with these symptoms should remain out of school until he is without fever for 24 hours and has been receiving antibiotics for 48 hours. If your child wakes up with a sore throat but no other symptoms, she can attend school.

Fever (higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) is an important symptom. Your child could have a contagious illness. While you can treat the fever, and make the child feel better temporarily, the cause of the fever and the risk of passing an infection to others remain. Children may return to school when they have been fever-free without fever-reducing medication for at least 24 hours.

Vomiting and diarrhea: A child who is throwing up needs to stay home. Do not send her back to school until 24 hours have passed without vomiting. Diarrhea is very uncomfortable and embarrassing to your child. She can return to school once the stool frequency has returned to normal and she has control over her bowel movements, even if loose. Call your child’s healthcare provider if he has both vomiting and diarrhea, has a severe case of either, or the symptoms include a fever or rash.

Eye infection (“pinkeye”): A child with bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious and should be kept home until he has been on prescription eyedrops or ointment for 24 hours. If he wakes up and the whites of his eyes are red, there is pus discharge, and/or the eyelashes are matted shut, call his healthcare provider. Notify the Health Office.

Head lice: Lice lay eggs (nits) that attach to the shaft of the hair. Shampoos (pediculocides) can be purchased over-the-counter – follow instructions exactly on the box. Remove the nits daily. A physician’s visit is not necessary, but you do need to notify the Health Office staff so appropriate classroom lice checks can be conducted.

Rashes: Contagious diseases that cause the following rashes need to be reported to the school: chickenpox, shingles, impetigo, scarlet fever, measles, fifth disease, ring worm, and all other contagious rashes. The school nurse will advise you on how long your child needs to stay home. Call the doctor if the rash spreads, does not improve, is accompanied by a fever or is from an unknown cause.

Injuries (fractures, sprains): A note from a healthcare provider is required to use crutches, a wheelchair or any other assistive
device at school. The physician must describe P.E. and activity limitations when your child returns to school.