It's back-to-school time and that means it's only a matter of time until parents hear the dreaded words, "I don't feel well." Coughs, sore throats, itchy, watery eyes and sniffles - children come down with all types of illnesses, but how do you know when they should stay home from school?
If your child has a fever, is contagious to others or is too sick to participate in learning activities, you should keep them home from school. Children who have headaches, earaches and mild cold or respiratory symptoms can go to school as long as they do not have any other signs of illness.
Generally, children should stay home if they have:
Fever - A fever is a common symptom of an infection like the flu. Children should stay home until the fever is gone for at least 24 hours.
Vomiting or diarrhea - Vomiting or diarrhea is a way for the body to rid itself of germs. Children can be very contagious during this time. Keep children home if they have vomited twice or more within the last 24 hours. Children with diarrhea should be kept hydrated and not go to school until bowel movements are back to normal.
Severe cough and cold symptoms - These can be a sign of contagious conditions such as whooping cough, bronchitis or croup.
Pink eye or conjunctivitis - This is highly contagious and children should not go to school for the first 24 hours after treatment begins. Symptoms include irritation, eye redness, swelling and pus.
Rash - Rashes can be a symptom of chickenpox, bacterial meningitis or impetigo. Children should stay home until symptoms are gone and the doctor says it's okay to return to school.
Sore throat - A sore throat can be a symptom of strep throat or a cold. If your child has strep throat, keep him or her home from school for at least 24 hours after starting antibiotics.
Head lice or scabies - If you think your child has head lice or scabies, have the school nurse or your child's doctor examine the child. If lice or scabies is found, your child should remain at home until he or she has been treated and all lice and nits are gone.
Ringworm - If your child has ringworm, he or she should be treated and cleared by his or her doctor before going back to school.
Pertussis (whooping cough) - This is a highly contagious disease, and your child should be seen by his or her doctor immediately. Children with whooping cough should not go back to school until cleared by their physician.
It's common for children to have six to 12 illnesses a year, ranging from mild to severe. More often than not, these illnesses commonly occur during the winter months due to flu season.
Childhood immunizations can prevent many diseases, such as measles, mumps and chickenpox. Children should also receive a yearly flu shot. Many illnesses can be prevented before they spread through proper hygiene like washing hands frequently, using tissues to blow your nose and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
Parents need to balance a child's school attendance with the risk of spreading these illnesses to other children, teachers and family members. Sometimes it's wise to keep the child with a minor illness home from school in order to prevent the spread of a contagious disease.