Sometimes knowing when to keep a child home from school or day care is obvious to parents.  If the child looks and acts ill, seems like he will not be able to participate in normal activities, or has been up all night with coughing, vomiting, or diarrhea, a day of rest at home is generally wise.  But sometimes knowing whether to keep a child home is not an easy call.  Most schools and day care facilities have rules or guidelines that need to be followed when children are ill.  These can vary among school systems, so parents should be familiar with local requirements.  School clinics are not set up to care for sick children all day.  It may be an inconvenience for a parent to have to miss work to care for a sick child, but a day of rest at home can help the child recover faster and prevent the spread of illness at school.  Here are some common-sense guidelines to follow if parents are in doubt about the best course of action.

Staying home sickFever

Do not send a child who has a fever of more than 100.5 degrees to school.  Fever is a sign that the body is fighting infection.  That doesn’t mean it’s all right to give the child a fever reducer such as Tylenol and then send him.  The fever should break on its own and the child should be fever free for 24 hours before returning to school.


If a child has vomited two or more times in 24 hours, she should stay home.


A child with diarrhea should stay home and get plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Strep Throat

If a child has tested positive for strep, she should stay home until she has been on an antibiotic for 24 hours.

Pink Eye

A child with pink eye should probably stay home for the first 24 hours.  A physician should be seen to determine whether the infection is bacterial.  If so, antibiotic drops can be prescribed.

Ear Infection

These are usually not contagious.  A child can go to school if he seems able to manage normal activities.


A doctor should be seen to diagnose a rash.

Colds/Sore Throat

If symptoms are mild, the child can go to school.  If symptoms are more severe, such as a persistent cough, or the child doesn’t seem well enough to participate in normal activities, it is usually better for him to remain home and rest.