Too Sick for School

You don't want your child to miss school, but you also don't want him to endanger himself or others by going to school sick. Here are a few guidelines you might wish to follow:

Runny Nose

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.

Bad Cough or Cold Symptoms

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 pediatrician right away.

Diarrhea and Vomiting

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/or vomiting, accompanied by fever, a rash, or general weakness, consult a doctor and keep your child out of school until the illness passes. However, a single episode of diarrhea or even vomiting, unaccompanied by any other symptoms, may not be reason enough for the child to miss school. That being said, please make sure we know how to reach you or another responsible adult during the day, in case diarrhea and/or vomiting recurs and your child needs emergency attention. (This is an important rule to follow whenever you send your child to school with any of the symptoms mentioned here.)


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.

Strep Throat and Scarlet Fever

Strep Throat and Scarlet fever are two highly contagious conditions caused by a streptococcal (bacterial) infection. They usually arrive with a sore throat and high fever. Some 12 to 48 hours after the onset of scarlet fever, a rash will also appear. A child with either 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—with a doctor's permission—return to school.


Chickenpox, a viral disease, is not life-threatening to children, but is very uncomfortable and extremely contagious. If your child has a fever, is itching, and begins to sprout pink or red spots (with "watery" centers) on the back, chest, and/or face, the chances are good it's Chickenpox. Please tell us if it is; it's important that schools know this information. Keep your child home for at least a week from the time you first noticed the symptoms and at least two days after the last spot has appeared, whichever period is longer.

Rubeola (Measles)

Rubeola (Measles) is a viral infection that attacks a child's respiratory system, causing a dry, hacking cough, general weariness, inflamed eyes, and fever. If these symptoms appear, keep your child at home and consult your doctor right away to avert more serious complications. If it is confirmed as measles, please let us know so we may be alert to symptoms appearing among other children at school. The measles rash of tiny, hard, red bumps will next appear on the child's face, behind the ears, and down the body. Your doctor may advise you to keep your child home for several days after the rash has disappeared.

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye)

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) is highly contagious and uncomfortable, so take heed when your child complains of an eye 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. Best to keep your child home until your doctor says it's all right to return.

Ear Infections

Ear infections are also contagious and, unless properly treated, can cause permanent hearing damage. Here again you should follow the 24-hour rule for fever and antibiotic therapy.

Mites and Lice

Mites and Lice once brought into a home or school can quickly produce an epidemic of wholesale itching and scratching. Mites are tiny insects in the same class as spiders and ticks; they irritate the skin and cause scabies. Lice are tiny parasites (like ticks) that thrive on the warm, damp scalps of children. Caution your child against sharing anybody else's combs and brushes or clothing, especially hats. If your child becomes a "host" to mites or lice, check with your doctor or the school Health Assistant for the most effective way to disinfect your child—and all the child's clothing and bedding.