Go Further

Dear Maclay Parents and Families,

The beginning of each new school year brings us all together and with that comes colds and sniffles. Respiratory illnesses from the sniffles to the flu are easily spread from person to person. Early in the morning it can be difficult to make a decision about whether or not your child is sick enough to stay home from school. With minor symptoms you often cannot tell whether she or he is going to get better or worse during the course of the day.
The main reasons for keeping your child home are:
  • If she or he is too sick to be comfortable at school or to participate in educational activities.
  • If she or he might spread a contagious disease to other children.
As a rule of thumb, a child should stay home if there is:
  • Fever of 100F orally is an important symptom, especially when it occurs along with a sore throat, nausea or a rash. Your child could have a contagious illness, which could be passed to classmates and teachers. Keep your child home until she or he is fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea. A child should be symptom-free for 24 hours before returning to school.
Has symptoms that prevent him or her from participating in school such as:
  • Frequent or productive coughing or sneezing
  • Persistent Pain (earache, stomach, head or body aches, etc.)
  • Widespread rash
  • Sore throat. A minor sore throat is usually not a problem, but a severe sore throat could be strep throat even if there is no fever. Other symptoms of strep throat in children are headache and stomach upset. Contact your pediatrician as your child needs a special test to determine if it is strep throat.

Most of these problems need to be discussed with your child’s pediatrician to determine if an office visit is needed.

The following guidelines may help in your decision process:
  • Runny nose--is the way many children respond to pollen, dust or a cold virus. Minor cold or allergy symptoms should not be a reason to miss school. Colds however can be contagious for at least 48 hours. Returning to school too soon may slow the recovery process and expose others unnecessarily to illness. A child should stay home if she or he is too uncomfortable to complete their work and participate in other school activities.
  • Coughing--especially if it is persistent during the day, can indicate a worsening of cold or allergy symptoms. It may be a sign of a secondary infection (sinusitis, pneumonia), which may require medical treatment. It may also indicate mild asthma. If your child’s cough is worse than you might expect with a common cold, you need to consult your child’s doctor. You should do so immediately if the child is not acting normal, has a fever, or has any difficulty breathing.
  • Pinkeye, or conjunctivitis--can be caused by a virus, bacteria or allergy. The first two are very contagious. The eye will be reddened and a cloudy or yellow discharge is usually present. The eye may be sensitive to light. Consult with your doctor to see if antibiotic eye drops are needed. Your child should stay home until he has been on antibiotic eye drops or at least 24 hours or until your doctor recommends your child may return to school.
  • Middle Ear Infections--can be painful but are not contagious to others. Your child should see their doctor for diagnosis and treatment and should stay home if they have fever or pain.
  • Flu--is a contagious virus that usually occurs in the winter months. Symptoms include body aches, high fever, chills, congestion, sore throat and in some children, vomiting. Your child should stay home until these symptoms improve and she or he is fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of medications. Consult your child’s doctor for treatment suggestions to make your child more comfortable.
  • Skin Infections--can be a staph or strep infection that creates a red, oozing blister-like area that can appear anywhere on the body. It can be passed to others by direct contact. Consult your child’s doctor for treatment and length of time the child should remain out of school, especially if the area cannot be covered.  All open or draining wounds need to be covered during the school day.
I hope that these guidelines will be helpful to you on those days when your child is sick. Please feel free to contact me at the Maclay clinic with any questions or concerns. This information was complied with information from the Center for Disease Control and the National Association of School Nurses. You can find additional information at www.cdc.govand www.kidshealth.org.
Jean Rillstone, RN
Maclay School Nurse