During cold and flu season, kids are more likely to be exposed to germs that cause illness. When should sick children be kept home, and when is it OK to send them to school?

“We want children to go to school, so that they are learning and they’re with their peers. However, there are times when kids should really stay home from daycare and school,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw.

According to the Academy of Pediatrics, the following symptoms warrant keeping your child home from school and childcare:

  • Fever: The definition of a fever is when your child’s temperature reaches 100.4 or higher. Children should stay home until they are fever free without fever-reducing medicine. For infants younger than 2 months old with a fever, see your doctor immediately, whether or not other symptoms are present.
  • Vomiting: Kids should be kept home if they have thrown up two or more times in the previous 24 hours—unless it’s been determined that their vomiting was caused by a non-communicable/non-infectious condition, and the child is not in danger of dehydration.
  • Diarrhea: Exclusion is required for all diapered children whose stool cannot be contained by a diaper, or diarrhea that causes an older child to have accidents.
  • Abdominal pain: Another cause for concern is abdominal pain that continues for more than two hours—or intermittent abdominal pain associated with fever or other signs or symptoms.

“Children should also stay home if they have a communicable disease like strep throat and haven’t completed at least 24 hours of antibiotics, or if they have whooping cough. With illnesses like that, it’s best to talk with your doctor before sending kids back to school or childcare,” says Dr. Bradshaw.

For more conditions that require exclusion from school or childcare, click here.

It is not necessary for kids to stay home if they have only a runny nose or mild cough. Teach them to wash their hands after blowing their nose and to cough into the crook of their elbow, not into their hands. To help lessen the spread of illness, ensure that your kids are up to date on their vaccinations and are immunized against influenza. For more germ-prevention strategies, click here.