Rhonda Patt

When a sick child can go to school

Q. Our 5-year-old daughter started kindergarten this fall. She has already missed two days of school for a fever and may miss more with an oncoming cold. In preschool, I always erred on the side of keeping her home with any illness, but I don’t want her to miss too much school now that she’s in primary school. Are there any guidelines to help a parent decide when a child is too sick for school?

A. Parents should start by asking themselves whether their child is well enough to maintain focus and activity level throughout the school day. They should then consider whether sending their child to school will place other children at risk of contracting the same illness.

Most schools and child care centers have guidelines, as does the American Academy of Pediatrics. Both groups agree that a child with a common cold should not be excluded from school. A child should not attend school if she has a fever or illness that impairs her ability to participate in regular daily activities or has a bad cough, vomiting or diarrhea.

According to the AAP, though, fever alone should not be a reason for exclusion from school. Most schools will send a child with a fever home.

If your child has a more serious illness such as chicken pox, measles or tuberculosis, you should consult her health care provider for guidance.