Child blowing nose
Friday, August 2, 2019

It's decision time. Your child must get ready for the morning school bus, but he or she is

feeling sick. You’re pretty sure it’s not a serious illness—and you have a busy day planned. Should you keep the child at home? These five tips can help you make the call.

Keep a child with a fever home

A fever is any temperature above the normal range of 98 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. (Add a degree to readings taken orally or under the arm.) Oral temperatures can be skewed if the child just drank something hot or cold. If you use an ear device, be sure ear canals are clean. If you’re in doubt about the thermometer’s accuracy, take your own temperature, too.

Trust your instincts

A stuffy nose, a sore throat, sneezing, or even a light cough isn’t an absolute reason to miss school; many healthy children have seven to 10 colds per year. But kids who are lethargic, coughing heavily, and showing other signs they need extra care aren’t going to get much out of school—and they’re probably infectious.

Be more lenient with younger kids

You’re probably more likely to send an older child to school, and that’s not unwise. A sick first-grader in tears may trigger a midday call from the school nurse, while an older child may tough it out—and should know enough not to sneeze on his or her friends. Also, it’s harder for a high schooler to compensate for a missed day of classwork.

Heed the signs

Depending on the circumstances, one episode of vomiting may not mandate a day at home. Neither does a cold in a child with asthma if peak flows are good. But bouts of vomiting or watery diarrhea, a heavy or frequent cough with mucus, persistent pain, or a widespread rash justify an absence.

Call your provider

You may not be able to talk with a health-care professional in time for your morning decision, but if your concern lingers, be sure to seek medical advice.

Plan ahead for your youngster's next sick day

Don’t wait till your child has to miss school to figure out how you’ll handle it.

  • Know your school district's sick-child policies. Do certain contagious bugs mean mandatory absence? Will your child need a note when he or she returns?
  • Have a network. Is the babysitter or childcare provider prepared to deal with a mild illness? Have you identified friends, neighbors, or relatives who can bail you out in an emergency—and agreed to do the same for them?
  • Decide who's on duty. If one parent has to take off work to look after a sick child, will you take turns? Will it depend on whose job duties are more critical that day?
  • Have a work-at-home plan. Do you have a home computer on which you can work while you tend to a sick youngster? What is your company’s policy on time off to care for sick children?