Too Sick for School

  • Here are a few guidelines you might wish to follow: 

                Fever is an important symptom.  When it occurs along with a sore throat, an earache, nausea, listlessness, or a rash, your child may be carrying something very contagious.  Most pediatricians advise parents to keep children home during the course of a fever and for an additional 24 hours after the fever has passed.  Children must be fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications. 

                A bad cough or cold symptoms can indicate a severe cold, bronchitis, flu, or even pneumonia.  Some children suffer one cold after another all winter long and a run-of-the-mill cold should not be a reason to miss school.  But, if your child is not acting “right”, has difficulty breathing, or is becoming dehydrated, it could be serious.  Check with your doctor right away. 

                A runny nose is the way many children respond to pollen, dust, chalk, or simply a change of season.  If it isn’t a common cold, then it’s an allergy and allergies aren’t contagious.  Don’t keep the child home. 

                Diarrhea and vomiting make children very uncomfortable, and being near a bathroom becomes a top priority.  If your child has repeated episodes of diarrhea and vomiting, accompanied by fever, a rash, or general weakness, consult your doctor and keep your child out of school until the illness passes. 

                Conjunctivitis or “pink eye” is highly contagious and uncomfortable.  Symptoms include eye or eyes burning, itching, and producing a whitish discharge.  Minor cases (caused by a virus) and severe cases (caused by bacteria) require treatment with prescription eye drops.  Keep your child home until 24 hours after medication is started.

                Strep throat and scarlet fever are two highly contagious conditions caused by streptococcal (bacterial) infection.  Symptoms include a sore throat and a high fever.  With scarlet fever a rash will also appear 12 to 48 hours later.  A child with strep throat or scarlet fever should be kept home and treated with antibiotics, as prescribed by a physician.  After 24 hours on an antibiotic, a child is usually no longer contagious and may return to school. 

                Ringworm is a mild fungal infection of the skin and is easily treated.  Typically, ringworm appears as a flat, growing, ring-shaped rash.  The edges of the circle are usually reddish and may be raised, scaly, and itchy; the center of the circle is often clear.  Another type of ringworm fungus causes skin color to become lighter in flat patches, especially on the trunk and face.  On the scalp, ringworm infection typically begins as a small bump and spreads outward, leaving scaly patches of temporary hair loss. 

    Ringworm is spread when infected skin comes in direct contact with healthy skin or infected skin flakes fall and are touched by other people.  A person with ringworm is infectious as long as the fungus is present in the infected area. 

    Treatment: An antifungal ointment is typically applied to the skin for several weeks.  Occasionally, oral antifungal medicine is prescribed, particularly if the diagnosis is ringworm of the scalp. 

    • School attendance guidelines: Students with ringworm will be dismissed from school, but may return as soon as treatment has begun. Affected areas of the body should be loosely covered with gauze, bandage, or clothing to prevent shedding of infected scales.