While dropping my son off at daycare last week, I overheard another parent speaking with the teacher: “She has a bit of a cold, but isn’t running a fever, so we decided to bring her.”
The teacher took the child, who could barely hold her head up, and cuddled with her on her lap. By lunchtime, she had spiked a fever and was sent home.
At first, this made me angry. I envisioned the parents giving her Advil before school, even though she seemed sick. Then I felt sorry for the kid because rather than laying home on the couch catching up on "Sesame Street," she was forced to participate in school activities.
Two days later, my son was sick.
I recognize that kids don’t give warning, and they never get sick when it’s convenient for mom or dad to take a day off. In fact, they tend to get sick the morning of a big presentation, right? And then what do you do?
Unless you have relatives who can step in, sick kids probably means missing work, and that can be very frustrating. Back-up child care is non-existent in our house, so if the kids are sick, it’s up to me to take the day off. While I can empathize with my sick child, I find myself aggravated knowing how far behind I’ll fall in the office.
But while it may seem unfair that your day is disrupted, it’s equally unfair to your child to send them to school or daycare. They can’t possibly be expected to learn and they have the potential to infect an entire classroom.
So, when should you keep your child home?
The older your child is, the more likely they will be able to help you understand if they feel well enough for school. But if you’ve got babies or toddlers in daycare, you'll have to make the decision for them.
Generally speaking, if your child is running a fever greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, keep them home. Likewise, if they have vomiting or diarrhea, most child care centers require that the child be symptom-free for 24 hours before returning.
Sore throats, coughs and colds can be a bit harder to judge, so you might need a trip to the pediatrician to see if your child is contagious.
If the child isn’t running a fever, is it OK to send them? It’s certainly a tough call for parents, as most colds are most contagious before the child appears sick. A great resource is the Dr. Sears website that has some excellent guidelines for parents regarding illness.
Germs seems to be everywhere, especially during the winter months, and there is never a good time for anyone to get sick. But while it might be tempting to send a child to school, it’s not fair to them or their classmates. Be considerate and keep sick kids at home.
What’s your back-up plan when the kids are too sick to go to school? Tell us in the comments.