Is My Child Too Sick for Child Care?

By: Mel Hendrickson, BSN, RN, Director of Health Services, Penfield Children’s Center

Children come down with illnesses big and small. Some aren’t contagious, but some are. How do you know when to keep your child home?

Ask yourself 3 things:

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you answer a few key questions.

  1. Does your child have a fever? Fevers of 101 F or more are generally signs of illness, so children should stay home from child care.
  2. Is your child well enough to participate in the day’s activities? If she seems run down, keep her home.
  3. Does she have an illness like the flu or pinkeye? If you think she might, don’t let her go back to child care until you know she’s not contagious anymore.

When your child is sick, here’s what you need to keep an eye on:

  • Fever is a sign that your body is fighting germs that are making her sick. It’s a common symptom of infections like the flu. It it’s 101 F or higher, wait until your child is fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of medication before sending her back to child care.
  • Diarrhea happens because of an infection, food poisoning or medications like antibiotics that upset the stomach. It can lead to dehydration, so give her a lot of fluids. Keep your child home until her stools are solid and your doctor gives the okay to send her back to child care.
  • Vomiting is another way our bodies get rid of germs. It’s usually caused by a stomach virus or infection. Keep your child home if she has vomited twice or more in the last 24 hours. She can come back to child care after her symptoms clear up or the doctor says she’s no longer contagious.
  • Severe cough and cold symptoms should be enough to keep your child home. A serious cough could be a symptom of a contagious condition such as whooping cough, viral bronchitis or croup. However, it can also be a warning sign of asthma or allergies.
  • Sore throats can be a symptom of a common cold or strep throat. If she has a mild cold, she can come to child care. If your child has been diagnosed with strep throat, keep her home for at least 24 hours after she starts antibiotics.

If your child becomes ill while in child care, a nurse may ask that you pick your child up early. It’s important that you abide by these instructions in order to lessen the chance that your child passes on her illness to another classmate, as they are in close proximity throughout the day.

What are you child care’s policies about keeping sick children home?

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