When kids start attending school, illnesses become much more common. Children contract as many as 10 to 12 viral illnesses during the school year, the Washington Post reports¹. But no parent wants their child to miss 10 or more days of school every year.
Deciding whether or not your child needs a sick day isn’t easy. You have to weigh the pros and cons – and you have to balance their health with their education. Even finding someone to care for your sick child is difficult.
If you’re trying to determine if you should keep your child home from school, it’s important to consider just how sick they are. But you should also think about the following reasons to keep kids with colds, the flu, or other contagious health conditions at home.
1. Your Child Could Be More Contagious Than You Think
If your child is complaining about not feeling well, it’s important to consider just how sick they are. But it’s also important to figure out just how contagious they might be.
A kid who’s complaining about a stuffy nose may simply be suffering from allergies. But pair that congestion with a fever, and it’s an entirely different story.
Even mild symptoms could make your child a highly contagious carrier of illness according to the Washington Post². And what seems like something that won’t affect your kid’s school day could wind up spreading a virus throughout the entire class.
As NPR³ explains, most diseases and illnesses aren’t spread when your child is experiencing strong symptoms. Kids are contagious in the early stages – like when they have a fever or a sore throat. So, before you brush off your child’s sore throat or mild fever, consider whether or not sending them to school might put their classmates and teachers at risk.
2. Sick Kids Won’t Be Able to Fully Participate in School
One of the biggest concerns parents have about keeping kids home from school is the impact a sick day will have on their education. According to ScienceDaily⁴, two in five parents rank falling behind in schoolwork as a “very important” factor in deciding whether or not a sick day is needed.
And while schoolwork is important, it shouldn’t be more important than your child’s health and well-being. A sick kid will likely wind up learning less – and being less able to focus – if they’re uncomfortable, tired, or otherwise ill.
If your child’s symptoms are making them too distracted and uncomfortable, it’s time to keep them home. As the Chicago Tribune⁵ explains, symptoms or illnesses that prevent kids from participating in school activities will prevent them from learning.
Ask yourself if your child’s symptoms will prevent them from sitting in class and focusing on their schoolwork. Is their upset stomach too distracting? Will they wind up spending more time in the nurse’s office than the classroom? Can they play on the playground or participate in gym? If they can’t fully attend school, it’s likely better to keep them home.
3. Attending School Could Make a Simple Illness Worse
Sending your child to school with even a basic illness, like the common cold, could wind up making their condition worse.
Germs spread rapidly in school environments, and many children even pick up the same virus multiple times as it mutates. But, more importantly, putting your child in this environment when they aren’t feeling well could result in worsening symptoms and prolonged suffering.
Like adults, kids need rest in order to recover and recuperate. Rest is the best way to help the immune system fight off a cold, the flu, or other contagious conditions. Yet at school, children are required to be active and awake.
Waking up early and being unable to rest, coupled with germs and discomfort at school, can make it more difficult for kids to recover from any illness. As the Mayo Clinic⁶ explains, staying home is typically the best way to prevent this from happening.
4. Schools – And Teachers – Aren’t Equipped to Handle Sick Children
When you send your sick child to school, your child isn’t the only one who has to deal with his or her illness. In addition to potentially spreading a contagious illness, your kid could require extra care to get through the day.
And if their symptoms worsen or they can’t get through the day, sick kids will end up needing the help of teachers or other school staff, like on-site nurses. The Chicago Tribune⁷ notes that typically, sick kids who attend school require care that school staff simply can’t provide. Daycare staff, teachers, and even administrators at various schools aren’t equipped to give kids the kind of care they need to handle many illnesses – and they wind up getting sent home.
So, if your child is going to need additional care and comfort at school, it’s a better idea to keep them home for the day. You can oversee their health needs, and you can even take them to the doctor if it’s necessary.
Make an Informed Decision Before Sending Sick Kids to School
A few sniffles and a light cough might not seem like a serious illness. But when it comes to school attendance, keeping your child home can be an important decision – both for your child’s health and the health of their classmates.
It can be difficult to know if your child is well enough or too sick to attend school. You have to make a judgment call on whether your child will miss valuable lessons, or if they could be sick enough to put other children at risk.
However, if you’re concerned about whether or not a sick day is the right choice, there are a few ways to make the decision easier. CBS News8 recommends children skip school if they have the following indicators, symptoms, or illnesses:
- Highly contagious illnesses, like the flu or strep throat.
- A sore throat lasting for 48 hours or more.
- A fever, which can be the first indicator of a contagious illness or virus.
- Vomiting, or vomiting in the past 24 hours.
- Diarrhea of any kind or length.
- A rash, particularly if other symptoms are present.
If you’re ever conflicted over whether or not your child should attend school, check with the school. Many childcare centers, preschools, and even elementary schools have set rules about when kids need to stay home. You can also check with your pediatrician, who can offer guidance and even treatment suggestions for any illness. This can help you make the smartest decision for your child’s health and wellness.