When It's Smart to Skip School

When It's Smart to Skip School

When school systems closed because of over-hyped Ebola fears, we worried the “cry wolf effect” might interfere with real reasons to keep kids home from school. Sometimes it’s smart to keep them home to avoid infecting schoolmates and teachers with highly contagious -- but not life-threatening -- diseases that make the rounds again and again. Keep your kid home, if they have:

  • Pinkeye: Also called conjunctivitis, this super-contagious eye infection causes a sticky discharge and red swollen eye(s).
    Treatment: If it’s bacterial, use antibiotic eye drops. Keep them home until redness and irritation is gone.
  • Stomach problems: If your child is vomiting, has diarrhea and/or a fever, choose bed rest. 
    Treatment: Fluids, children’s acetaminophen and possibly a probiotic. If symptoms continue for 24 hours, see your doctor. Keep them home for 24 hours after symptoms disappear. 
  • Coughing fits: A steady or hacking cough -- that’s stay-at-home territory.
    Treatment: Steamy baths, warm liquids and see your doc. No cough syrups for kids younger than 4 and no adult cough medicine for children older than 4. Send them back when the doc says it’s okay.
  • A sore throat: Seventy percent of the time it’s viral, not bacterial strep, so it’s all about soothing and waiting.
    Treatment: If you suspect strep -- it may cause headache, stomachache, fever, rash on the throat -- get a swab test at your local drug store, then see your doc for confirmation, antibiotics and a probiotic. Kids can go back to school after 24 hours if they feel up to it. 

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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