Seven rea­sons to know when to keep your child home from school

The Standard Journal - - LO­CAL - By Jeni Car­son Polk Med­i­cal Cen­ter

Know­ing when to keep a child home from school due to ill­ness can be a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion.

There seems to be more in­cen­tive than ever be­fore for stu­dents to avoid ab­sences, but that is not al­ways in the stu­dent’s best in­ter­est, or of those around them.

There are def­i­nitely com­mon con­di­tions and ill­nesses that should re­sult in the child re­main­ing at home, rather than risk be­com­ing sicker or in­fect­ing other stu­dents.

Be­low are six in­stances when a stu­dent should stay home from school.

Pink­eye (Con­junc­tivi­tis)

Chil­dren with bac­te­rial or vi­ral con­junc­tivi­tis may be con­ta­gious un­til the red­ness and itch­ing are gone. In cases where the condition is vi­ral, an­tibi­otic eye drops won’t help. The only cure for vi­ral pink­eye is time. Chil­dren shouldn’t go back to school un­til their eye is no longer red.

Stom­ach Flu

The stom­ach flu is typ­i­cally vi­ral and can cause vom­it­ing and/or di­ar­rhea. Those symp­toms should be gone for 24 hours be­fore a child goes back to school.

Steady or Hack­ing Cough

A child who has a mod­er­ate to se­vere per­sis­tent cough, or who is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing cough­ing fits, should stay home. Chil­dren with mi­nor coughs are typ­i­cally ok to go to school, but the child should prac­tice good cough­ing hy­giene, such as cough­ing into a tis­sue or their el­bow and wash­ing hands fre­quently.


Most schools ask par­ents to keep chil­dren home if they have a fever higher than 100.4 de­grees Fahren­heit, and will of­ten re­quire chil­dren to be fever-free for 24 hours be­fore re­turn­ing. This is a good pol­icy. The fever it­self isn’t con­ta­gious or a bad thing, but it causes fa­tigue and re­quires rest for the child to fully re­cover.

Strep Throat

Strep throat is def­i­nitely con­ta­gious. Chil­dren who have been di­ag­nosed with strep throat should be treated with an­tibi­otics, which need to be in the sys­tem for at least 24 hours be­fore the child is con­sid­ered to not be in­fec­tious.

Head Lice

A child who has live head lice shouldn’t re­turn to school un­til they’ve un­der­gone lice treat­ment, and there are no live bugs in the hair.


Rashes can be a sign of con­ta­gious ill­nesses like chick­en­pox or bac­te­rial menin­gi­tis. Keep your child home un­til she’s been di­ag­nosed. Your stu­dent can head back to the class­room af­ter her symp­toms are gone and the doc­tor gives the OK.

The most im­por­tant thing is to trust your­self be­cause no one knows your kids bet­ter than you do. If your child has the snif­fles but hasn’t slowed down at home, chances are they’re well enough for the class­room.

But if they’ve been cough­ing all night and has a hard time get­ting up in the morn­ing, it may be a good idea to take it easy at home.

Fi­nally, if you think your child is too ill to go to school, don’t hes­i­tate to con­tact your fam­ily physician.

Jeni Car­son is a Com­mu­nity Nurse at Polk Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

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