At some point in school years, all parents face the tough choice of whether or not to send a sick child to school. In fact, school seems to be the place where diseases are caught, captured and sent home for all of us to experience.
Younger school-age children seem particularly susceptible to illness at school, especially if they haven’t spent much time in preschool or childcare centres and been exposed to most childhood illnesses.
Complaints of a headache, sore tummy, or aching makes most parents wonder whether the child is angling for time at home, worried about something at school, or is actually unwell.
Here’s Kidspot’s quick guide to when you should keep your child at home.
If your child is displaying one of the following symptoms you are best to keep them home.
This is one symptom that automatically rules out school, no questions. Your sick child should be fever-free without medication for at least 24 hours before you send them back to school. Keep your child home, making sure they drink plenty of fluids and can recover from whatever they are battling. Refer to COVID-19 notes above.
This could be a sign of a viral infection, so it’s best to keep your child at home. Diarrhoea can cause dehydration so keep offering clear fluids but avoid drinks containing sugar including fruit juices (dilute apple juice is ok).
Aside from the fact that your child won’t be comfortable, he could vomit again. Keep them home until he has gone 48 hours without vomiting as they may remain contagious until 48 hours after the last bout of sickness.
It depends on how severe the cough is. Coughs can spread infection to other students. A serious cough can also keep a child from getting a good night’s rest, which means they will be too tired for school in the morning. As a general rule, if your child has a serious wet cough, particularly if it’s accompanied by breathing troubles, seek medical advice. But if it’s just a mild, occasional cough and they have no other symptoms, they can probably go to school. Refer to COVID-19 notes above.
Skin rashes could be a sign of a contagious infection, such as impetigo (school sores). You should have any rash that is itchy and sore, especially one that is getting worse, evaluated by a doctor before sending your child to school.
If it is impetigo, your child will need antibiotics and should stay home for another 24 hours or until the sores have dried up.
Conjunctivitis is when the eyelids and eyes are red and swollen. If it becomes infected, and feels gritty and has a discharge, it is highly contagious and can easily spread from one child to another, as many parents of primary school-age children already know all too well. Keep your child home until the doctor says that they are no longer contagious.
This one can be tough to call. If the child doesn’t have diarrhoea and isn’t constipated, tummy trouble could be caused by any number of things from anxiety to food poisoning.
Check how much fibre they are having as, even if they are not constipated, insufficient fibre can cause tummy pains.
If the stomach pains are minor enough to allow your child to continue walking and behaving normally – and there are no other symptoms – this is one of those times you could probably send them to school. Look for an opportunity to see if there is something on their mind.
As with coughs, you should evaluate all the symptoms before making the call. If the pain is mild they will likely be fine; but if they are clearly uncomfortable, keeping them at home and seeking medical advice is best. If there are any other accompanying symptoms such as a fever, swelling, or hearing loss, it’s a definite sick day with a call to the doctor.
If you kept your child home every time they had the sniffles, they would miss a lot of school. Use your judgment. If they have a runny nose but seem otherwise fine, then it’s probably okay for them to go to school (with a box of tissues ).
Trust your instincts. If your child seems lethargic and just not themself (if they’re not interested in playing, that is often a big clue), keep them home and monitor them for any signs of illness. Refer to COVID-19 notes above.