Parents, Keep Sick Kids Home

Winter is tough for kids and illnesses, but when should kids stay home from school?

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.

Christie Pulvino February 16, 2012 at 08:29 PM
We have no backup care; it is solely up to my husband or I to take off with our sick child. The first year and a half was rough, it seemed like we were taking off about every other week to stay home with her. Now, she is about to turn 5 and rarely gets ill. I recall (now silly) arguments between my husband and I about who would/should stay home and why my/his job was more important....ahhh, the joys of parenting :)
Tim February 16, 2012 at 08:45 PM
It also helps around age 4 you can start rationalizing with your little one too as far as health management. You can explain to him/her the cause and effect of things like sleeping well, washing your hands, and eating well. All of these things help out tremendously.
Christabel February 16, 2012 at 10:44 PM
My kids are older, and I am blessed to be a SSAHM, but it really is a tough call. One tends to have stomach problems, the other tends to have throat problems. Most of the time these are mild (ate too much, or the allergies kicked up). I have been "played" when they wanted to stay home because of a test or an assignment due they didn't want to finish. They despise when I call them out on it. However, when they are running a fever, dashing to the bathroom, coughing their guts up, or truly displaying illness, they stay home. I have no back up plans if I am out running errands, or at a Dr. myself. All this said, it's really hard for parents who work away from home (I work at home), to make the call, especially in today's extremely vulnerable job market. Sometimes it just doesn't matter if your child is sick to an employer and there is no one to take care of them except you. I actually lost a job when my girl was extremely sick from strep throat (it turned into scarlet fever in Two Days!). It took three weeks to recover, & though I used all the time I had coming to me, the employer was unsympathetic and unwilling to "give" any time credit. Some employers will not let you work from home in these circumstances, and this particular employer had me come back to work and fired me at the end of the day. FEMLA only becomes usable after 6+ weeks of illness. So, its Job (food, heat, mortgage, fuel etc.) or its take care of your child. I will chose my childrens health. Luck to all!
Tim February 17, 2012 at 03:48 PM
This is soo true. We've all worked for some serious (you know whats) before. It's why I stay at the job I'm at now, even though I could easily get a good bit more money elsewhere. In my 20's I'd have made that trade and not thought twice. Today, however, I value all of the side benefits and perks of working where I do.
Stacey Schantz February 17, 2012 at 04:14 PM
It really is a tough call when it's just a cold, they last forever and seems like nearly every kid in daycare has the "snot" some weeks. It's just frustrating when there are obviously sick kids in the class room who don't belong there, infecting the rest of the class, like the little girl I mentioned above. Day cares are germ fests - seems germs are the only thing a 2 year old knows how to share, right??? But it's common sense, if your child is so ill that they can't hold their head up, or that you have to give them medicine to "curb" the symptoms of a fever or cold to send them to school, maybe you need to think of the other kids in the classroom and not send them. If you're boss won't give you the time, maybe take the sick kid to work with you, your boss/other employees won't want to be subjected to it either. And maybe then they'll understand why you need the time off. Parenting is no easy task. Fortunately, like Tim said, my older son has built up his immunity from all exposure and hasn't had nearly the severity of the illnesses. Hopefully that will take him to Elementary school next year with a solid immune system. A Kindergarten teacher told me one that it was obvious which kids had been in daycare, because they weren't sick in K. The kids who hadn't had much social exposure/school were sick a lot in Kindergarten. So, guess the kids are going to get exposed one way or the other...


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