General Guidelines for Keeping Children Home From School Due to Illness

It is sometimes difficult to decide when and how long to keep a child home from school. The timing of the absence is often important in order to decrease the spread of disease to others, and to prevent your child form acquiring other illnesses while his/her resistance is lowered. The following guidelines represent the more common childhood illnesses and the usual recommendations.

To prevent the spread of strep throat and other illnesses: Encourage children to wash hands frequently, especially after blowing nose or coughing. Do not share drinks or food with their friends.

1. Child should be fever free for 24 hours.
A child's temperature is lowest in the morning, so a low temperature on awakening is not a true indicator. If you have given your child Tylenol or Motrin at night, the medication could still be affecting your child's temperature. A child should be fever free without the assistance of medication for 24 hours before returning to school.

2. A child should be free of vomiting/diarrhea for 24 hours before returning to school. A child who has been ill during the night may feel slightly better in the morning and even ask to go to school. However, the child will likely experience symptoms of illness later, will also be tired from loss of sleep, and will still be contagious to other children.

3. A child with thick or constant nasal discharge should remain home. Very few younger children can effectively blow their noses and wash their hands afterwards. A child with the above symptoms will quickly spread the illness to other children.

4. A child diagnosed with strep throat/scarlet fever should remain home for the first 24 hours of antibiotic treatment. A child remains contagious until he/she has been on antibiotics for 24 hours.

5. A child diagnosed with conjunctivitis may attend school after 24 hours of treatment. There should also not be any drainage from the eyes.


A child should stay home for at least 24 hours to rest if the following symptoms are present the morning of school or the previous night:

What to do When Your Child Has...

Common Cold: Irritated throat, watery discharge from the nose and eyes, sneezing, chilliness, and general body discomfort. Your child should remain home if symptoms are serious enough to interfere with your child's ability to learn. Medical care should be obtained if symptoms persist beyond 7-10 days, fever develops. or discharge becomes yellow or green.

Fever: If a child's temperature is 100 degrees or greater, he/she should remain home until he/she has been without fever for a full 24 hours. Remember that fever is a symptom indicating the presence of an illness.

Flu: Abrupt onset of fever, chills, headache and sore muscles. Runny nose, sore throat, and cough are common. Your child should remain home from school until symptoms are gone and the child is without fever for a full 24 hours.

Head Lice: Lice are small grayish-tan, wingless insects that lay eggs called nits. Nits firmly attach to the hair shaft, close to the scalp. Nits are much easier to see and detect than lice are. They are small white specks, which are usually found at the nape of the neck and behind the ears. Following lice infestation, your child may return to school after receiving treatment with a lice shampoo, AND ALL NITS HAVE BEEN REMOVED.

Impetigo: Blister-like lesions, which later develop into crusted pus-like sores. Your child should remain home from school until receiving 24hours of antibiotic therapy and the sores are no longer draining.

Pain: If your child complains or behavior indicates that he/she is experiencing persistent pain, he/she should be evaluated by a physician before your child is sent to school.

Pinkeye: Redness and swelling of the membranes of the eye with burning or itching, matter coming from one or both eyes, or crusts on the eyelids. Your child should remain home from school until receiving 24 hours of antibiotic therapy and discharge from the eyes have stopped.

Skin Rashes: A physician should evaluate skin rashes of unknown origin before your child is sent to school.

Strep Throat: Strep throat begins with fever, sore and red throat, pus spots on the back of the throat, tender swollen glands of the neck. High fever, nausea and vomiting may also occur. Your child should remain home from school until receiving full 24 hours of antibiotic therapy and until without fever or vomiting for 24 hours.

Vomiting & Diarrhea: Stomach ache, cramping, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, possible fever, headache and body aches. Your child should remain at home until without vomiting, diarrhea or fever for a full 24 hours. If your child has had any of these symptoms during the night, he/she should not be sent to school the following day.

Antibiotics: ordered for an infection are to be taken until all medication is gone. Only when these directions are followed is a germ completely eliminated from the body.

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