Our jobs as parents is to make the best decisions for our children, especially when they are unable to do so for themselves. One of the decisions we’ll inevitably stumble upon is whether or not we should send our kids to school when they catch a bug.
This decision can make even the most assured parents second-guess themselves. Should I let my child rest and get better, or will they fall too behind in their studies? If I drop them off at school, will they even have the ability to be productive and learn? What if they spread their illness to others in their class?
Don’t worry — these are totally normal questions that will cross your mind when making this decision. Fortunately, we have five major symptoms you can keep in mind when determining whether or not you’re making the right call. If your child is showing any of the following symptoms, it could be beneficial to have them spend a restful day in bed.
1. High Fever
A major sign that your child is fighting off an infection is a high fever. In most school-aged children, a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher merits a valid reason for them to stay home and rest.
Symptoms of a high fever include:
- Cold sweats
- Body aches and pains
- Warm head/high temperature reading
- Loss of appetite
To be sure, always check their temperature with a thermometer. Some ways you can help reduce their fever at home is to have them drink plenty of fluids, use fever-reducing medication you can purchase over the counter at the local drug store and dress them in lightweight, breathable clothing.
Your kiddo should be feverless for about 24 hours before you send them back to school. If their fever sticks around for longer than five days, or is higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit, see your provider immediately.
2. Cough and/or Runny Nose
Oftentimes, a cough or runny nose is a sign of a mild upper respiratory virus or cold, and it’s fine for you to let your child go to school. If this is the case, ensure they know the basics of prevention for spreading a cold, such as:
- Washing their hands regularly
- Coughing or sneezing into their elbow
- Not touching their eyes, nose or mouth
- Not to touch or come into close contact with others
However, if your little one is wheezing, or has a fever accompanied with these symptoms, let them stay home to rest.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but if your child is excessively vomiting or unable to keep any foods or liquids down, they won’t benefit from going to school. Vomiting is typically a sign of a stomach virus or infection. Keep them home until they are feeling better and haven’t vomited for at least 24 hours.
If you believe they might be showing signs of dehydration, have a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher or have vomited consistently for more than 24 hours, a trip to the doctor’s office should be the next task on your to-do list.
On the same note — a trip to the bathroom every five minutes is unproductive for both your child and their teacher. Diarrhea is a sign of an infection or food poisoning, and it can also lead to dehydration.
Keep your child home if their condition is severe and see your provider if it continues or is accompanied by a fever.
5. Sore throat
Most common colds come with a sore throat to some extent, which is why this symptom can be a tricky one. If your child is getting over a cold or has allergies, it’s likely OK to send them to school.
On the other hand, your child might have strep throat, which is a bacterial infection and highly contagious. Symptoms of strep throat include:
- Throat pain and redness
- Painful swallowing
- Swollen or tender lymph nodes in the neck area
Take your kiddo to Rapid Care or to see their pediatrician so they can begin taking an antibiotic. Keep them home until 24 hours after they’ve started their prescribed antibiotic.
Still Unsure? Schedule an Appointment at MRH
If worse comes to worst, trust your gut. You likely know your child better than anyone else.
Of course, if your child has the chickenpox, pink eye or another contagious infection, don’t let them go to class until symptoms start to clear up. If you think your child is contagious, or could put others at risk, please keep them home for the safety of others and to reduce the spreading of their illness.
If you’re still not sure what the best call is, or if you have any doubt in your mind that you should keep your child home, a simple call to your MRH pediatrician or family provider could provide clarity. Over the phone, you can describe your child’s symptoms, and your provider can guide you on whether you should wrangle them up and drop them off at school, keep them at home to rest or even schedule an appointment.