How do I know if my kid is too sick for school?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the common cold is the main reason for school absences each year. Additionally, about 40 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17, missed three or more school days this past year because of illness or injury.

It’s often hard to draw a line on when to send your kid back to school after he has been sick and when to keep him home an extra day.

“Kids should stay home, if they have fevers over 100.5 degrees,” said Children’s National Health System pediatrician Lee Beers, MD. “Then, the child should stay home until 24 hours without a fever have passed.”

Children also need to stay away from school if they need regular, special attention, for example if they are throwing up, need to take multiple naps throughout the day, or are on a nebulizer treatment. Staying home from school when the child is experiencing the above symptoms, not only helps the child get better faster, but also spares fellow students from catching various bugs.

Dr. Beers pointed out symptoms that children can have and still attend school.

Safe symptoms: 

  • Have a cold, but no fever
  • Runny nose or cough is present: Just make sure to wash hands frequently!
  • Green snot: Contrary to popular belief, the presence of green mucous does not mean a child is sick, it actually is a sign he is getting better.
  • Eating normally
  • Child is energetic

“Of course there are tons of different types of illnesses, each with their own exclusion criteria, but they are so individualized. Just makes sure to ask your child’s pediatrician if you have any questions,” said Dr. Beers. “And make sure you ask when your child can go back.”


Lee Beers Lee Beers, MD, is a general pediatrician at Children’s National and the Medical Director for Municipal and Regional Affairs at the Child Health Advocacy Institute.

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