Many people think knowing when to keep your child home from school is a no-brainer. However, making the right decision is a bit more complex than it initially appears – especially when keeping your child home means finding a babysitter or taking a day off from work. Sometimes symptoms of illness that seem like they could be serious before bedtime have cleared up by the time the morning rolls around. Other times, you confidently send your child off to school thinking that there’s nothing to be concerned about only to get a call from the school nurse around mid-morning. How can you tell when to keep your child home from school?

Are They Contagious?

Many parents share the same dread when they drop their toddler off at preschool and notice another child with a red nose and a box of tissues clutched in their hands. Kids often get sick much more routinely than adults because their immune systems aren’t as strong and they’re exposed to a lot of other children every day.

In an effort to prevent the spread of sickness, you may think it’s safest to keep your child home from school. However, people are actually the most contagious a day or two before they begin to display symptoms. So, if your little one is sneezing and coughing from a cold, they may not actually be contagious anymore. With a little cold medicine, they could be fine to go to school.

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It’s also not always easy to tell what is contagious and what isn’t. For example, a rash could be an allergic reaction to food, and therefore not contagious, or it could be the beginning of chickenpox, which is very contagious. Uncertainties can be redirected to both your pediatrician or the school itself.

Use your best judgment. If your child just has a cold, but their activity level and mood remains the same, send them to school. If they’re suffering from something more serious, like whooping cough or bronchitis, then it’s wise to keep them home. Generally speaking, if your child has been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours, they may be able to return to school.

What Are They Like At Home?

Taking note of your little one’s behavior at home is usually a good barometer to judge how they’re truly feeling. A sore throat and case of the sniffles could make for a mucusy mess, but if they haven’t slowed your toddler down at home and their appetite is the same then they’re probably well enough to go to school. A child that claims to feel sick but displays no dip in energy, appetite, or alertness could also be trying to pull one over on you.

However, if your child is lethargic, clingy, moody, or just generally not acting like themselves while also displaying symptoms of illness, you may want to consider keeping them home. A child who’s normally very happy and active that’s suddenly irritable, lethargic, and groggy could be an indication of something being wrong. You know your toddler better than anyone, so trust your gut.

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Look For Serious Signs

Of course, there several signs of illness that generally indicate something more serious, such as nausea, vomiting, chills, fever, and diarrhea. These symptoms could be cause for a trip to the doctor, depending on the severity. If your daughter felt a little fluish before bedtime but woke up feeling fine with no temperature and her regular appetite, she may be alright to send to school. But a consistent fever coupled with chills, achiness, and nausea are definite signs that your little one is ill and should be kept home from school.

Ask When to Keep Your Child Home from School

If you’re unsure when to keep your child home from school, you can always reach out to your pediatrician. It’s always best to follow the advice of a medical professional when you’re uncertain.

In addition, you can also call your child’s preschool. Schools generally have a written illness policy that they follow. For instance, many schools will encourage parents to keep children home if they’re displaying symptoms of pink eye, strep throat, chickenpox, or respiratory illnesses like whooping cough or bronchitis. In addition, schools will sometimes insist a child should return no sooner than either 24 hours after a fever has broken naturally, or 24 hours after being on antibiotics. However, policies may vary. If you’re ever unclear about when to keep your child home from school, it never hurts to ask.

Home Away from Home Academy is a private preschool centrally located on the border between Aberdeen and Holmdel, NJ. We’ve been leaders in early childhood education for decades. To learn more about our policies and procedures, you can check out our Admissions Policy or get in touch with us with any questions you may have.