Sick Kid? When You Should Keep Them Home From School
It's not always easy to keep a sick kid home from school, especially in families with two working parents, or situations in which catching up on in-class or take-home work can be a logistical nightmare.
But no one wants to be the parent whose kid started an outbreak in the classroom.
"We recommend sending kids to school really only if he or she is well enough to learn," said Dr. Alan Weller, president of the New Jersey chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "And what that means is if the child's symptoms don't disrupt his or her ability to concentrate in class, and are not a distraction to the other classmates."
If that's not so easy to determine before bedtime or in the morning, there are some symptoms that should serve as red flags and mean a child needs to spend the day at home or head to the doctor.
If a child has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, Weller said, he or she should not attend school.
"Because that could suggest an infection, whether that's bacterial or viral, and that there's a high likelihood of that being contagious," he said.
Even if that fever responds to common over-the-counter medications, the threat is still present. Parents want to wait until the child has not had a fever for 20 to 24 hours before sending them into a building with other kids.
Other symptoms that "warrant staying home" include vomiting, diarrhea, a significant amount of nasal discharge or an uncontrolled cough.
Weller said if a child is dealing with a bacterial infection that can be helped by antibiotics, parents would be wise to keep their kids away from school until a day or two into the dosage regimen, as long as the child is without fever for a day and their other symptoms are improving.
While the state requires that schools be in session for 180 days each year, there's no statewide requirement on the number of days a student must attend school in order to successfully complete a grade or course.
The New Jersey Schools Boards Association said student attendance policies are determined by individual districts, including the required number of attendance days.
In cases of long-term illness, the Association said, ordinarily a district would organize home instruction or another educational arrangement — in these cases, a student would not be considered absent.