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Please contact your school or refer to your school’s attendance policies or handbook to learn more about excusing your student for illnesses

Whether or not to keep a child home from school isn’t always an easy decision. It is obvious that a very ill child does not belong at school, but there are lots of days when common sense isn’t enough to make the choice. The following discussion may give parents some helpful guidelines.

To begin, children with fevers should not be in school. Remember that ill children sometimes have normal temperatures in the morning but become feverish by afternoon. A child with a fever the afternoon before a school day should stay home the following day. Returning to school is appropriate after 24 hours of being fever free. Definitions of “fever” vary, but it is generally accepted that the line is crossed somewhere between 100 and 100.4 degrees F. On the other hand, some children feel very ill with small temperature elevations.

Conditions making students too uncomfortable to participate in class are also reasonable grounds for remaining at home. Examples are urinary tract infections, painful injuries, and nagging coughs. Sometimes the school nurse can help make students more comfortable and keep them at school. An example is the administration of pain medication as needed for healing fractures (see the section on Medications at School). Parents may also consult the school nurse with questions about whether or not to keep a child home from school, or with questions about how the school environment might be modified to accommodate a student’s problems.

Finally, children with contagious diseases, spread by contact or coughing or sneezing, should stay home. Examples of these are influenza, chicken pox, and strep throat. A child with strep throat may return to school after 24 hours of antibiotics if feeling well enough. Recent reports have stated that the common cold is most contagious during the first three days of infection. Of course, every child with a sniffle cannot miss school, but consideration for other students and staff is expected and appreciated. Children should be reminded to use tissues to cover coughs and sneezes and ESPECIALLY to wash hands frequently.

Children with colds should be kept home as appropriate. Constant coughing and sneezing are sufficient reason. Another infection condition is conjunctivitis, or “pink eye”. Though the state Department of Health no longer requires exclusion of students with pink eye from school, most Los Alamos pediatricians recommend staying at home for the first 24 hours of treatment. Parents may request that the school nurse check on a child returning to school after an illness. Sometimes a child seems well enough to return to school in the morning but parents are concerned that the child may not feel well later.