When Should You Keep Your Sick Child Home?


Children are bound to come down with the occasional cold or other viral illness, especially when cold weather keeps a whole class cooped up inside all day. Whether or not to keep your sick child home from school or daycare can be a difficult decision to make, and may also depend on your child’s school or daycare policies. A Mayo physician offers tips on how to decide.

“Young children’s immune systems haven’t learned to recognize and resist most common viruses,” explains Robert Key, M.D., family physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Prairie du Chien. “That’s why, until they’re 8 or so, kids seem to bring home everything that’s making the rounds at school. Children can typically have six to 10 colds per year.”

“In general, children should stay home when they don’t feel well enough to participate in normal daily activities and lack sufficient alertness to learn or play,” Dr. Key says.

He suggests that kids should stay home when they experience:
*Vomiting twice or more over a 24-hour period or being unable to tolerate normal food and drink, or both.
*A temperature of 101 or higher.
*Severe coughing or difficulty breathing.
*Repeated bouts of severe diarrhea for at least a day.
*Persistent abdominal pain (more than 2 hours).
*Open sores on the mouth.
*A skin rash or red eye from an undetermined cause.
*Head lice or scabies.
*Other contagious conditions such as strep throat, chicken pox, impetigo, etc.

According to Mayo Clinic, the top four infectious illnesses that keep children home from school or daycare are colds, the “stomach flu,” pink eye and strep throat.

If your child’s illness seems to be more than just a common cold or flu, you may want to contact his or her regular health care provider to see whether the symptoms could indicate something more serious.

The single most important thing your child can do to prevent illness is to wash his or her hands thoroughly and frequently. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wash their hands with soap and warm water for 15 seconds — about as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.


About Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is the first and largest integrated, not-for-profit group practice in the world. Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy of “the needs of the patient come first.” More than 3,700 physicians, scientists and researchers, and 50,100 allied health staff work at Mayo Clinic, which has campuses in Rochester, Minn; Jacksonville, Fla; and Scottsdale/Phoenix, Ariz.; and community-based providers in more than 70 locations in southern Minnesota., western Wisconsin and northeast Iowa. These locations treat more than half a million people each year.



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