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Is Your Sick Kid Too Ill To Attend School or Day Care?

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Question: Is Your Sick Kid Too Ill To Attend School or Day Care?
Answer: A sick kid can create stress for families in many ways. Not only are there concerns for the young patient's well-being but also with work deadlines and employment absenses if a working parent must stay at home.

Many kids with mild illnesses can safely and happily attend daycare, participate in pre-school, or even go to school. A cold, for example, most likely can be handled with some over-the-counter medicine before and after a youngster's day away from parents. But to be sure, parents should always check with their kid's teacher or provider to review the handbook for specific policies that apply to kids and illnesses.

What signs should I watch for to see if my kid should stay home from school or away from other youngsters? Ask yourself these questions.

  • Does John or Emily feel well enough to comfortably participate in the program's activities? Sick kids who are lethargic or whiny are often giving clues that they would be better off resting at home.


  • Can the provider attend to your sick kid without risking the needs of others? Some facilities have sick areas for kids; most do not have separate facilities.


  • Did the doctor diagnose a contagious illness that should keep your sick kid at home? Illnesses such as pink eye, scabies, head lice, impetigo, strep infection, whooping cough, and chicken pox are highly contagious. In this case, your youngster should remain isolated from other kids until the risk of passing on the illness has passed.


  • Does your sick kid have any of these symptoms? If so, most providers indicate your son or daughter should stay at home until the illness is no longer contagious and he/she feels well enough to return to school or be around other youngsters.

    • -- Fever above 100 degress Fahrenheit, and the sick kid looks and acts ill

      -- Signs of possible severe illness such as uncontrolled coughing, difficulty breathing, wheezing, persistent crying, or lethargy

      -- Diarrhea, such as loose or runny stools, a stool that runs out of a diaper, or a sick kid who can't get to the bathroom in time

      -- Vomiting; once a youngster has vomited, most health providers recommend or require that your sick kid cannot return to school or daycare for a minimum of 24 hours

      -- Any sort of rash, especially when accompanied by a fever or behavior change

    While having a sick kid is a hardship for most families, it is important that parents enact the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) in that if you wouldn't want your son or daughter playing with a sick kid who exhibits certain illnesses, then the same holds true for them as well. Providers and teachers report that families will often drop off a sick youth with a fever or who has just recently thrown up because of work arrangements. That creates not only a major health risk to all youngsters but is terribly unfair to the sick kid as well. Plus, recovery time is shorter with a sick patient who is given plenty of rest, and some good ol' TLC.

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