How to Know When Your Child is Too Sick for School

With school back in session and winter around the corner, illnesses are starting to peak.  The viruses responsible for colds and the flu cause the most common illnesses in your child care facility.  Even though your child has had their immunizations, they can still get viruses that cause colds, sore throats, coughs, vomiting, and diarrhea.  As a pediatrician’s office, we often get asked, “how do I know when my kid is too sick for school?”


Here are some guidelines we offer parents:



  • Children with a temperature less than 101 and who are drinking fluids can go to school.  However, if you child’s temperature is 101 or higher, they need to stay home.  With a fever of 101 or higher, children are contagious and are often not feeling well enough to learn or participate.  Your child may return to school once they are fever free for 24 hours and back to feeling like themselves
    **Please note this is only applicable to school age children.  If your child is less than 3 months of age, with a temperature of 100.4 or higher, please contact your pediatrician’s office.  



  • If your child has only vomited once in 24 hours, they likely do not have an infection or are at risk for dehydration, and may go to school.  However, if they have vomited two or more times in 24 hours, your child should stay home, unless the vomiting is determined to be caused by a non-communicable/non-infectious condition.  Parents should watch for signs of dehydration and offer small amounts of fluid frequently, increasing the amount as tolerated.



  • Children with stools that are only slightly loose, without a fever and acting normally can go to school.  Children who wear diapers and are having diarrhea that is uncontrollable (not contained in the diaper) and toilet-trained children if the diarrhea is causing “accidents” or for children whose stool frequency exceeds 2 stools above normal per 24 hours-for that child while the child is in the program.  If there is blood or mucus in the stool, please keep them from a child care facility and have them seen by their provider.  As with vomiting, watch for signs of dehydration and offer fluids frequently.  


Sore Throat

  • A sore throat with a concurrent runny nose is often due to post nasal drip from the draining mucus.  As long as your child is fever free, they can return to school.  Kids should be seen by their provider for a strep test if they have a sore throat, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, headache or stomach ache.  If your child has strep, they should be on an antibiotic for 24 hours before returning to school. 


Abdominal Pain

  • If your child’s abdominal pain continues for more than 2 hours, your child should be kept from child care and see their health care provider.  If your child’s only symptom is intermittent abdominal pain, they can go to school, as this could just be caused by constipation or nerves.  If your child’s abdominal pain is accompanied with fever, diarrhea, or vomiting, you should call your pediatrician’s office.  



  • A child with a rash that is accompanied by a fever or behavioral changes should be kept from child care and seen by their health care provider to determine if the rash is due to a communicable disease.  Please note, that if your child ever has a rash that is not blanchable, please call your health provider immediately.  



  • Kids that are fever-free should go to school.  If your child has a fever, wheezing, or is not acting appropriately, they should not return to school.  


Mouth Sores

  • Children with mouth sores that have uncontrollable drooling should not return to daycare unties their provider or local health department authority states that the child is not infectious.  


Skin Sores

  • Skin sores that are weeping or are on exposed body surfaces that cannot be covered with a waterproof dressing should be kept from daycare.  


And don’t forget, in order to reduce the risk of your child being sick, make sure your child is up-to-date with the immunizations recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)!!!


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