Is your child too sick for school? Here’s how you can tell.

As children return to the classroom this fall, parents will face a familiar question — when is my child too sick to go to school?

too sick for school fever childrenThe answer is, it depends. If a child is seriously ill, obviously he or she should stay home and probably visit the doctor. If the illness is contagious, keeping your child home will prevent the illness from spreading throughout the classroom or even the school.

But often, kids with minor illness can function just fine at school and pose no threat to other students. In fact, sometimes kids recover faster from colds and minor illnesses if they are active at school instead of in bed at home.

To help make the call, here are some basic indicators for common illnesses.


A low-grade temperature shouldn’t prevent children from going to school, as long as they are behaving normally and able to concentrate in the classroom. However, a temperature of 100.5°F or higher is more likely to indicate your child is contagious. If the fever lasts more than three days or is accompanied by listlessness and vomiting, contact your doctor immediately. When your child’s temperature and energy level return to normal,  refer to your school’s policy about when he or she can go back to school.

Diarrhea and vomiting

Your child’s ability to manage symptoms can help determine whether or not to go to school. Kids under five should stay home due to the likelihood of accidents and because poor handwashing could spread germs. For older children, diarrhea (one or two loose stools) or one episode of vomiting may not be serious enough to disrupt their day. However, if conditions such as dehydration, pain, multiple episodes of vomiting, or a fever of 100.5°F or higher develop, keep your child home until the symptoms subside.

Runny nose and congestion

If your child has a runny nose and congestion, but is still eating, playing and otherwise acting normally, it’s probably not serious enough to miss school. However, if you also see a loss of appetite, wheezing, mood changes or lethargy, it might be more serious, and a visit to the physician is a good idea.

Parents know their children better than anyone. Look for changes in behavior, mood or energy. That will help tell you if an illness is serious enough to keep them home.