Q: Our 3-year-old daughter started preschool this year, and she has had so many colds. I’m having difficulty finding the balance between keeping her home for every sniffle versus sending her and exposing her classmates. What are the guidelines on this?
A good place to ask is your daughter’s school or preschool. Most schools have guidelines regarding this, and the school will always have the final say.
Sometimes, however, these guidelines may be vague and still leave the final decision to the parent. The American Academy of Pediatrics has some very specific guidelines for when children should be excluded from school or daycare due to illness.
According to these guidelines, a child with a common cold should not be excluded from school. On the other hand, if a child has a fever or illness that impairs her ability to participate in regular daily activities, she should not attend school. If your child has a bad cough, vomiting or diarrhea, she should stay home until the symptoms resolve.
These guidelines are based on research that shows most illnesses are contagious and can spread before the child has even developed symptoms. On top of that, excluding children with minor illnesses from school has not been shown to reduce the spread of disease.
According to the AAP, fever alone should not be a reason for exclusion from school; however, most school policies still use fever as a reason for exclusion. Also, the AAP says that conjunctivitis (“pink-eye”) is not a reason for automatic exclusion; however, most area schools and daycares still exclude children with symptoms of pink-eye.
If your child has a more serious illness such as chicken pox, measles or tuberculosis, you should consult his health care provider for guidance about preventing the spread of the disease and when he can return to school.