Is My Child Too Sick for School?
Which symptoms call for your kid to stay at home and which give him the all-clear
Last night your toddler was running a slight temperature and actually asked to go to bed -- not her usual MO. By morning she's fever-free, scarfing down her scrambled eggs and chasing the dog around the backyard. You're conflicted: Should you keep her home from daycare -- upending your finely tuned schedule -- or send her off as usual?
Sometimes a child's symptoms (say, Technicolor vomit or a cough like a barking seal) make the decision a no-brainer. Other times, not so much. To alleviate that early-A.M. angst, we consulted several top pediatricians to help you figure out when your child (and you!) should get the green light to carry on as usual.
Good to go:
Your child is good to go if he's over 4 months old, has a temperature below 100.4°F, is receptive to drinking fluids, and doesn't appear to have had a personality transplant.
If your baby is 4 months old or younger, call the doctor at the slightest indication of fever (anything above 98.6°F) or a sudden change in behavior; daycare is out. Older children should stay home if their temps rise above 100.4°F. A feverish child is not only considered contagious, but he's also probably not feeling well enough to learn or participate. Keep him home until he's been fever-free for 24 hours and is feeling like his usual self.
Good to go:
She's heaved only once in 24 hours. It's not likely she has an infection, nor is she at risk for dehydration. Sometimes kids throw up because mucus left over from a cold has drained, in which case it's also not worthy of a sick day.
If your child has vomited two or more times in 24 hours, she's benched. Watch for signs of dehydration as well: She's peeing less than usual and her urine is dark yellow; she doesn't produce tears when she cries; or there are no bubbles between her lips and her gums. To ward off dehydration, offer small amounts of fluid frequently, increasing the amount as tolerated. One more thing: Don't automatically send your child back once the vomiting stops. If she's not markedly better after a few days, call the doctor.