Kids either love or hate school — if you’re lucky, they enjoy heading off to school or daycare every morning, eager to learn new things. Plus, you probably love that little respite you get during the day, especially if you stay at home.
There are days, though, when you should definitely keep your little ones home from school or daycare. If you’re not sure, we’ve gathered a list of times when you should keep your kids home from school.
First, Check With the School
Before you make a decision, it’s a good idea to check with your child’s school or daycare. Many have an exclusion rule that determines whether or not your child can or should come in, and if they’re ill, it outlines when they’re able to return to class. This may vary from school to school, so make sure you check with the office or school nurse first.
1. Running a Fever
Keep a thermometer handy — you’re going to need it. If your child is running a fever, usually higher than 100.4, it’s time to keep them home. With a fever, most schools won’t let you bring your child back until they’ve gone at least 24 hours with a normal body temperature.
In most cases, unless your child is younger than three months old or is running a temperature higher than 104, a fever is nothing to worry about. Simply treat it with fever reducers such as Tylenol or Motrin as directed. If the fever does not go down, lasts more than five days or your child starts acting oddly or not like themselves, call your doctor.
2. Vomiting, Diarrhea and Nausea
An upset stomach is a tried-and-true way for kids to try to get out of class. It’s hard to prove or disprove — and you don’t want to risk telling your kids that they’re not actually sick when they might have the stomach flu and end up vomiting all over their teacher.
Vomiting is another one of those illnesses that often falls under a school’s exclusion rule — you won’t be able to send your child back to school until they’ve held food or liquids down for at least 24 hours.
As anyone who’s experienced it can attest, tooth pain is the worst. Kids experience a lot of it, first as their baby teeth cut through the gums and then as their adult teeth move in to take the place of the baby ones. If your child is experiencing a toothache, take a look to assess if it’s their tooth that’s actually causing the pain or something else — for children who might be too young to communicate well, any pain in their mouth could be a toothache.
Many times, a toothache is caused by nothing more than a piece of food that’s stuck between the teeth. If you can determine the source of the pain, you might be able to resolve it. If not, it is definitely time to make an appointment with your child’s dentist.
Make sure you watch for other symptoms as well — a fever coupled with a toothache could indicate an abscess or infection that needs to be addressed quickly, or it could be a sign that your child is cutting teeth. Cutting teeth is often associated with fever and other symptoms that can mimic ear infections and colds.
Regular dental checkups are the best way to ensure your child doesn’t have any toothaches that might keep them out of school.
4. Sore Throats
Sore throats can be tricky because they can be caused by so many different things. Yelling or screaming while they play can leave your kids with a sore throat, for example. The thing to look out for with sore throats is the other symptoms that your child might have, including:
- Swollen lymph nodes — Press your fingers lightly to either side of your throat. Do you feel the round lumps just below the jaw line? Those are your lymph nodes. These often swell when the body is fighting off an infection which can cause a sore throat.
- Swelling or spots in the throat — Take a flashlight and look at the back of your child’s throat. White or yellow spots on the tonsils or the back of the throat could be indicative of strep. Make an appointment and keep your child home.
Some sore throats may be caused by a virus, which means all you can do is wait it out. Stock up on warm tea with lemon and honey to soothe the pain. Chloraseptic sprays can work well, too, but only if your child is willing to open their mouth wide enough to spray the back of their throat.
5. Pink Eye
Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is an infection of the mucous membrane that lines the eyelid and the eye’s surface. It can be caused by a variety of things, including allergies, bacterial infections and viruses. No matter the cause, one thing is absolutely true in every case — it’s uncomfortable, and it sucks.
The main problem with pink eye isn’t the condition itself. In most cases, it’s not serious and can be treated after a quick trip to the doctor. The problem with pink eye is that it is highly contagious, and with little hands rubbing irritated eyes, it becomes easy to spread the infection to other people. Check with your school for their specific rules regarding pink eye, but chances are they’ll ask you to keep your child home until the infection has subsided.
Kids will come up with the most inventive reasons to try to avoid school, especially if it’s a test day. Don’t let attendance rules keep you from doing what is best for your child, and for the rest of the children in their class — if they’re legitimately sick, keep them at home. Not only does it make it easier for your child to recover from their illness, but it keeps your child from spreading their germs and making their classmates sick.