How sick is too sick for school? 5 signs to look out for

Kinderling News & Features

We all know that sinking feeling. When the day is fully planned, the children are off to school or day care, you have a full day of work, and running around ahead of you ... And then it all falls to pieces because one child is unwell.

And let’s be honest, we’ve all thought about just sending them off anyway. And sometimes, they really will be fine. But you do need to think carefully about their symptoms, and what is best for your child in that moment.

Here are five common ailments that all kids experience, and the signs that mean you really should be cancelling your plans.


Fevers = staying home. A fever is a temperature of 38 degree Celsius and above, and they need to be fever-free for 24 hours before returning to school or child care.

A fever is normally the sign of an infection of some kind, so they need to be resting and drinking lots of fluids.

Note: if your newborn has a fever, you should consult your GP or emergency department.

Blocked nose or cough

A slightly runny nose or little cough on its own probably doesn’t mean your child needs to stay home from daycare. But if the mucus is very thick, or the cough is frequent and noisy, that’s when you need to take it more seriously.

Coughs can hang around for some time, so if it’s still there a few days on, or your child also has a fever, seek medical advice. The same applies if the cough turns into a bark, or they have difficulty breathing.

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Stomach bugs

With any sign of vomiting, stomach cramps or diarrhea, your child should not be heading out of the house. These are all common symptoms of tummy viruses, like gastroenteritis, which is highly contagious.

Ensure everyone is your family is washing their hands well and make sure your sick child is drinking a lot of fluids!

Skin stuff

Anything on the skin is a little bit difficult to identify. Rashes are nigh on impossible to diagnose from afar, so if you think it looks nasty, it’s best to keep your kid away from school or day care.

One to watch out for is hand, foot and mouth disease, which are painful sores around the mouth and throat, often with red blisters on little hands and the soles of feet. This is highly contagious, and you should have it checked with a medical professional to confirm a diagnosis.

If you think your child has lice, conjunctivitis or pink eye, these are also highly contagious and they should stay away from other kids where possible. No one will thank you for sharing these around at day care!


It’s awful seeing your child in pain, but we all know that kids love to complain about every little booboo. However, if you really feel that this isn’t just an attempt to get a Frozen Bandaid, and your kid isn’t behaving as normal, boycott school and seek medical advice.

Most of important of all - remember to trust your gut. If you think your child is sick, keep them home, and get medical advice.

*Information taken from Motherly.