When to Keep Your Child Home from School

Is a fever a reason to keep a child home from school? Or a cough? Or rash? How can you tell the flu from a cold?

Your child wakes up with a sore throat and the debate begins: Should you keep him home or send him to school?

How is a parent to know when it’s best to keep a child home to rest and reduce the risk of spreading illness? Let’s look at some common symptoms and how they can help you make a decision.


If your child wakes up with a fever higher than 101 degrees then she should stay home from school. A child with a fever is most likely contagious so she should stay home. Take her temperature reading before giving her ibuprofen or acetaminophen, since those will reduce the fever.

Chart: Is it a cold or flu?

Sore throat

If your child has a mild sore throat due to allergies or cold symptoms, he is most likely well enough to attend school. If the sore throat is severe, it could be strep throat and you should take him to a doctor to be tested. If it is strep, he should take antibiotics for 24 hours before returning to school to avoid spreading the illness.

Pink eye (conjunctivitis)

Pink eye is extremely contagious. If your child has yellow/green discharge coming out of her eye or the white of the eye is a pink color then she should stay home until she has seen a doctor. Most schools will require a doctor’s note that clears the child to return or that  she take antibiotic eye drops for 24 hours before she returns.


If your child wakes with a headache but does not have a fever, it is most likely safe to send her to school. However, if she is excessively tired or has other symptoms, it is possible she is coming down with something and it might be best for her to stay home and rest.


If your child has a rash from an unknown source keep him home until you are able to see a doctor. Some rashes are contagious. If you know the cause, such as ringworm or impetigo, use the appropriate measures to ensure it doesn’t spread.


If your child has minor ear pain and no other symptoms, it is not contagious and he can go to school. If the pain causes more severe discomfort, sleep loss or fever, a day at home to recuperate may be the best choice.

Tummy troubles

If your child has diarrhea or vomits, he will need the day off from school. Not only is he contagious but he probably isn’t up for the usual routine anyway.

Cold symptoms

If your child has mild cold symptoms such as a runny nose and a mild sore throat and fatigue, he can attend school. Keep in mind that while cold symptoms don’t affect his ability to participate in normal activities, it doesn’t mean he isn’t contagious. Urge him to wash his hands frequently, cover his cough and put dirty tissues in the trash.


You can’t keep your kids home from school every time they cough, but they should stay home for severe coughs. Likewise, shortness of breath and wheezing are symptoms that deserve a doctor’s visit.             

Sarah Lyons is a freelance writer.

Categories: Featured Health, Health & Nutrition, Healthy Living