A child may safely be sent to school if he/she:
- Has vague or generalized complaints of illness without any specific symptoms like fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- Has a chronic health problem and you and his/her doctor have a plan for meeting health needs at school.
- Has mild cough or cold symptoms without fever or difficulty breathing.
- Has been fever-free for 24 hours WITHOUT medication. It’s very important to wait at least 6 hours after the last dose of Tylenol or ibuprofen before checking the temperature. It is also important to wait most of a day to be sure the fever is gone; many times a child’s temperature goes down in the morning but rises again in the afternoon.
- Has a stomachache but does not have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea. It is often challenging in the rush of the morning to know if a stomachache is going to develop into something more serious. In general, it is okay to send your child to school with a stomachache unless the child is unable to eat and this is something out-of-the-ordinary for your child. (Some children, particularly adolescents, are often reluctant to eat in the morning.)
Your child should be kept home from school if he/she:
- Has a fever of more than 100 degrees. It is important to have a thermometer to measure a fever – just touching a child’s head only tells you how warm the head is. Most grocery and drug stores sell thermometers for $5 or less.
- Has vomited two or more times. A single episode of vomiting can be caused by a variety of non-illness related issues. However, vomiting more than two times is a sign of a contagious condition.
- Has diarrhea. It can be difficult to know when diarrhea is more than a loose bowel movement. Parents should watch for two or more episodes of watery stools, particularly if the child also has nausea, a fever, or other signs of illness. A child with blood or mucus in the stool should be taken to the doctor for further evaluation.
- Has severe pain. Many times a doctor will clear a child to return to school after an ear infection, dental procedure, or other intervention. However, most children who need prescription-strength pain medication to control pain will not be able to learn and should stay home until the condition is controlled with over-the-counter pain medications like Tylenol and Advil.