School and Illness: When Should Your Child Stay Home?

School and Illness

School and Illness: Should Your Child Stay Home when Sick? If your child shows symptoms of sickness, you need to determine whether it is safe for them to go to school or stay home. While it seems like a simple decision, if your child is sick, they shouldn’t go to school or daycare. However, if it is a sore muscle, is it practical to keep the child at home?

For working parents, this is always a difficult choice. Hence, to make it simple, here is a list of symptoms which can help you make a wise decision.

If your child has any of these, they must stay at home.

  • Your child seems to be very tired and needs bed rest, especially with symptoms of flu
  • Your child has diarrhea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath. If your child is wheezing
  • Dry cough or an uncontrollable cough that disrupts their regular activity
  • Your child has an earache, sore throat, headache, or recent injury
  • Sore eyes or pink eye
  • Your child breaks out in a rash. However, not all rashes require that a child stay home from school, so check with your doctor.

Among the other things that you must consider to ensure proper health for your kids, you must also consider dietary changes and exercise.

List of symptoms that mean your child must stay home

  1. Fever

Any temperature of 100.4° Fahrenheit (38° Centigrade) is a fever, which means children shouldn’t go to school. Fevers are a sign of infection and compromised immunity, so it is not safe to send them to school as you cannot know if their health will get better or worse if attend school. Also, while medicines may bring the fever down, the infection may be contagious and put other children’s health at risk.

Most schools have a policy stating that a child should be fever-free for at least 24 hours before attending school. What to do if your child has a temperature of 99.9 or 100? Officially, that is not considered to be a fever. But, you might be called by the school to pick up your child if they have a temperature of 100, as it is considered to be a sign of potential fever. Hence, it is safer to keep your child home and keep an eye on them if they are showing symptoms of fever.

  1. Vomiting or diarrhea

If a child is experiencing diarrhea and vomiting, they shouldn’t be sent to school. Continuous vomiting and diarrhea may also leave them dehydrated, so make sure that they drink plenty of water. The same 20–24-hour rule that applied to fever applies here as well. However, it is worth checking with your pediatrician for advice. Certain viruses can be contagious, even if it’s for an extra day. In such conditions, you don’t want to be the one responsible for an outbreak of the virus at the school.

School and Illness: If your child shows symptoms of sickness, you need to determine whether it is safe for them to go to school or stay home.


  1. Bad body ache

If your child has a mild headache or sore muscles in the feet or hands but otherwise seems okay, it is fine to give them some medicine and send them off to school. However, if the pain is more than just mild, don’t send them to school. Pain is something you might want to keep an eye on. In such situations, you must keep them home and consult with a doctor.

  1. Continuous coughing or abnormal breathing

If everyone kept their children at home during the winter months, we would witness empty schools! So, coughing as a symptom of not sending your child should be considered if:

  • It is continuous, causes extreme discomfort and hampers the child’s ability to learn and play. Here, immediate treatment is required.
  • Labored breathing accompanied by dry coughing is another sign that you shouldn’t ignore. This too requires immediate treatment.

If you’re unsure, call your doctor for advice, as it is better to be safe than sorry when it’s about the health of your child and other children at school.

  1. Contagious Diseases

A contagious disease spreads by close contact with other people. For example, chickenpox, flu, cold, as well as hand foot and mouth disease which is prevalent nowadays in many parts of India. In this case, it is very important to ensure your child is at home.

A disease may be contagious even before the child starts showing its symptoms. This would make it very hard to prevent the spread of germs, especially in a school classroom. However, practices like washing hands from time to time and improving hygiene will prevent the spread of germs.


As a parent, you must remember that attending school regularly is very important for the growth and development of your child. Continuous absence from school might make it harder for them to keep up with their studies. Hence, it is important to keep a constant check on their overall health, ensure that they eat healthily and perform routine exercises, which can help strengthen their immunity.

Disclaimer – This is a Guest Post.


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    Preeti Chauhan July 15, 2023 at 11:45 am - Reply

    As a doctor, this is something I encourage parents to do. If a child feels unwell, it is better to let them stay home, take rest and recuperate rather than force them to take some medicine and go to school unless the doctor has already seen the child. Many times some infectious diseases in their initial stages do not show any symptoms, only body ache or intense feelings of not feeling well, it is better to let the child stay home, than take the risk of spreading the infection to more people.

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    Surbhi Prapanna July 16, 2023 at 12:40 am - Reply

    Here in USA, we have strict rules regarding sickness of kids and sending school, since the time of covid. of course, healthy diet and exercise play a vital role to boost immunity and it is best to keep them at home and allow rest, when symptoms are severe. it is best thing to prevent infections to others and get well soon.

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    Monidipa Dutta July 16, 2023 at 3:17 am - Reply

    Yes, they should. ANd these descriptive illnesses be it fever and others you have shared is really helpful and I belive all the parents should understand it!

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    Harjeet Kaur July 16, 2023 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    In our time in school, we rarely stayed home with minor illnesses. But times have changed and so has illness become something to be wary about. You never know what fever is contagious or how it will spread. In this scenario, it is best to keep the child at home.

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    Roma Gupta Sinha July 17, 2023 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    This is a critical decision which every parent has to make often and you had rightly pointed out the criteria dear. Anyways I feel if the child is unwell he must rest and feel better sooner.

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    Shilpa Garg July 17, 2023 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    Yes, it’ important to keep children at home when they have any contagious illness that could spread to other children. Have heard about school authorities keeping the child in infirmary and asking the parents to take the child back home, until they recover completely.

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    Rakhi Jayashankar July 17, 2023 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    Covid has changed how we view the illness of our kids. We take mere common cold seriously these days in comparison with the old times. Even schools have become strict

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    SwatiMathur July 17, 2023 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    I agree if the child is unwell, they shouldn’t be send to school bnot just because their immunity is low but also because they might spread virus.

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