When Pediatrician’s Say You Should Keep Your Sick Kid Home from School

Cold and flu season means lots of things. It means coughing, sneezing, and stocking up on meds. It means trips to the doctor and cold presses on heads. It means preparing for your kids to be laid up in bed all day. But parents know the biggest struggle of all: It means trying to determine how to know when to keep your kid home from school or let them go to class.

This can be a huge debate for parents. On the one hand, kids are usually more prone to spreading diseases because they may not practice proper hygiene, share toys with other kids, and be touchy feely with their friends. Therefore, we know how important it is to keep them home if it s something contagious so that it doesn’t keep spreading.

Then again, you don’t want your child to miss too much school that they fall behind. Kids can get viral illnesses 10 to 12 times per year, and sometimes symptoms can last a week or more, so this is a major concern for parents.

Ask yourself these questions when trying to evaluate when it’s okay to send your child to school, and when it’s not:

How severe is the sickness? Pediatricians say that typically, a runny nose and a light cough are okay to go to school with—this might be allergies or just a small, passing virus. However, if the child is complaining of a sore throat, headache, fever, they probably aren’t okay for school. A sore throat might mean strep, and the other symptoms could be a sign of the flu coming on. Keep them home and take a trip to the doctor.

Do you think they can still learn? Is your child fatigued, achy, and lethargic? This could be majorly distracting for them to sit in class with, especially if they have to participate in electives such as gym class. These are also symptoms of the flu, which is contagious, so it’s best to keep them home in this instance and let them get some rest.

Is it possible they could get others sick? For instance, if they’re throwing up or having diarrhea, not only are they likely contagious, but if this happens in school, this could disrupt other student’s learning. Experts say that if the child threw up once overnight, but they still have an appetite and are acting okay in the morning, that’s probably fine, but multiple times and that’s a huge no-no. Keep them home.

Are they in a shape where the teachers or staff will be able to care for the student? If the student is sick enough that they need to be cared for by an adult, it’s best to keep them home. Not only are they likely coming down with something that could be contagious, but this wouldn’t be fair to the teacher or the other kids.

For more information on what Consumer Reports and the American Academy of Pediatrics have to say to help you make the right call on whether or not to send your child to school—from the e flu to pink eye and lice—check out the video below.

When do you usually keep your kids home and when do you think it’s okay to send them to school? Have you ever made the wrong decision?