Sick kids in class put others at risk, including families at home. When to keep your kid home from school and what to do if you can’t.
Update September 2020: I originally wrote this post in February 2019…pre-COVID…but with schools starting to reopen, it seems more relevant now more than ever!
“That kid over there is sick.”
My husband nudged me to look in the right direction, but I didn’t need any help spotting the kid he was talking about.
Red circles around his eyes. Puffy, red nose. Coughing. Coughing. And more coughing.
Yea, that kid was totally sick. Just who a parent wants to see standing next to their kid in gymnastics class.
The woman sitting beside us in the observation area quickly turned around. “He’s not sick! He’s just been playing for a while and is tired.” She must have been his grandma and she obviously overheard us discussing her visibly sick grandson.
Maybe this kid didn’t have the flu. Though he could have the flu for all we know.
But even if this kid “only” had a cold, there’s no good reason to be at gymnastics class passing germs to all of his classmates and instructors.
We don’t want your kid’s germs!
Kids get sick. It’s just a part of life.
However, I think I speak for all parents when I say that we don’t want our kids picking up any more germs than they already do or bringing illness home with them.
In a house with three kids, including a 7-month old baby, even a cold is devastating!
It took our family almost an entire month to kick a cold during Christmas vacation. Our oldest likely brought it home from school, then the kids spread it to each other, one by one, and finally to my husband and I.
Because of our poor congested baby, no one got any sleep. Christmas was subdued with a house of sick kids. Fortunately, there was no school due to the holiday break, or our oldest would have missed at least a few days. As it was, she had to skip her tutoring sessions, which she loves.
We were all pretty miserable, on Christmas no less.
And we were fortunate that this was “only” a cold.
I don’t want to imagine the flu, or worse, making it’s way through our family or to our baby.
Even if you’re careful, germs spread FAST among kids.
As soon as we spotted the first signs of a cold, we got serious about trying to prevent it from spreading.
We instated a no-hugging, no kissing policy in our house.
We diligently washed hands – every 5 minutes it seemed!
Everyone drank tons of water and crammed vitamins.
And everyone still got sick.
But you know what we didn’t do?
We didn’t send any of our kids to their activities!
Even with all our efforts to prevent that annoying bug from spreading, every single person in our family caught it. Germs are pervasive, especially with kids who constantly touch their face and put stuff in their mouths.
So if you bring a sick kid to class, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that at least one of their classmates is going to pick up their germs, and bring it home to their own family.
When should sick kids stay home from school?
Most schools, daycares, or activity centers have policies about different types of illness and when to keep kids home.
Those policies are stricter now than ever before — and with good reason!
Carelessness can lead to quarantines for other classmates and teachers.
However, policy or not, there are certain symptoms and conditions that warrant staying home or even a doctor visit.
If your kid has any of the following, keep them home:
- Fever — A fever of 100°F or higher is an indicator of illness or infection. Kids with a fever should stay home or possibly see a doctor if the fever is too high. Click here to learn more about fever in children and when to call the doctor.
- Vomiting — Whether it is caused by something contagious or not, if your child is throwing up then they likely don’t feel well enough to go to school or an activity.
- Diarrhea — This can be a sign of something contagious like a stomach virus, which you don’t want to spread to others. However, diarrhea can also lead to dehydration quickly, so you’ll want to keep your child home where you can be sure to give them plenty of fluids.
- Severe color or cough — A pervasive cough can be a symptom of serious (and contagious) conditions like whooping cough or viral bronchitis. In any case, your child is probably feeling pretty miserable and needs rest.
- Flu — The flu can be deadly for small children or those with a compromised immune system. If you know your child has the flu, do not take them to a public place.
- Pinkeye — Because it is highly contagious, many schools will send home children with pinkeye. If you’re unsure, get your child’s eye checked out so you’ll know whether it is in fact pinkeye, or something benign.
- Lice — Please, I’m begging you, keep them home!! Many schools are changing their policy on lice, allowing kids to stay in school so they don’t miss a minute of instruction. I don’t care about the policy. Lice suck. Treating a house is time-consuming and expensive. If you kid gets them, keep them home and treat them. Your fellow parents thank you.
Related: Try this Glitter Germy Hands Experiment with your kids to show them how easily germs spread and teach good hand washing habits!
What if I can’t keep my kid home?
I realize that many employers aren’t very understanding about sick kids. I used to work for a company who could care less about my own health, not to mention that of my family.
I get it. I really do.
A rise in the number of families with two working parents means that more kids are going to school with minor colds, and sometimes with more serious illnesses.
But here’s the thing.
With a little baby who hasn’t had a chance to get all her shots yet, I have to be protective mama bear.
Sending a kid to school with a runny nose and a cough might not seem like a big deal. Maybe they even act “fine.”
But it’s a big deal to us families with babies.
It’s a big deal to families with immunocompromised kids who can’t fight off minor bugs like the rest of us can.
And it’s an especially big deal now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
Look, allergies are one thing. Cold and flu are another story — and it’s not fair to try to hide symptoms (for example, using fever reducing medicines and sending them off to school before they’re truly well).
Also, there is no reason to bring a sick kid to extracurricular activities!
If you explain the situation, I’m sure that most people will be understanding and accommodating with make-up classes. They don’t want sick kids spreading germs at their gymnastics facility or tutoring center.
If your kid is sick, please keep them home. I promise I will too.
Some say the “village” is gone, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We’re all in this crazy journey of raising kids together, so let’s not make it any harder on each other than it already is.
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