When to Keep Kids Home From School

FRIDAY, March 20, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Trying to determine whether to keep a child home from school due to illness can be difficult for parents, but a pediatrician offers some advice on how to make that call.

"Being a parent is a juggling act, but throw in a child being home sick from school and the delicate balance topples. Many parents ask: When is it important to keep my child home from school and when should I send them?" Dr. Hannah Chow-Johnson, a pediatrician at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill., said in a university news release.

"There are times when it's best for the child and his or her classmates to just remain at home," said Chow-Johnson, who's also an assistant professor in the pediatrics department at Loyola's School of Medicine.

One common problem is pinkeye -- conjunctivitis.

"Your child is contagious with bacterial or viral conjunctivitis until the redness and discharge are gone. If the cause is viral eye drops won't help. The only cure is time. Don't send your child to school until the redness is gone," Chow-Johnson said.

Stomach flu can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and is typically caused by a virus.

"Children should not go back to school until both the vomiting and diarrhea are gone for 24 hours," Chow-Johnson said.

Children should stay home if they have a steady cough, hacking cough or coughing fits.

"A child can go to school with a minor cough, but the child should practice good coughing hygiene, such as coughing into a tissue or their elbow and washing hands frequently," Chow-Johnson explained.

Most schools forbid children from attending if they have a fever higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and require children to be fever-free for 24 hours before they return to school.

"This is a good policy. If a child has fever, that means he or she needs rest. The fever itself is not contagious but it causes the body to slow down to rest and recuperate," Chow-Johnson said.

Children should also be kept home if they have been diagnosed with strep throat and they've taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours.

A child who has had head lice shouldn't return to school until the child has had a lice treatment, and there are no nits (lice eggs) on the scalp or in the hair, Chow-Johnson advised. Nits can be removed with a very fine-toothed comb.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about preventing the spread of illness at school and child care.

SOURCE: Loyola University Health System, news release, March 11, 2015

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