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When Should Parents Keep Child Home From School? 2010-08-20 06:00:16

Doctor's Cheat Sheet: When Should Child Stay Home From School

Deciding whether to send your ailing child to class or keep them home can be a tough call for parents. While some schools have strict guidelines, others don't so we asked NYC-based pediatrician Dr. Anatoly Belilovsky who has been practicing for more than 20 years to help us compile a cheat sheet. Here is what he had to say:

Runny nose: Snot without cough, fever or headache is generally no reason to exclude from school. If the runny nose is one-sided, consider the possibility that there is a foreign body in the nose – beads tend to be a favorite, as do pencil-tip erasers. If it’s flu season and your child has an acute onset of a runny nose, it could be the first sign that full blown flu symptoms are on their way. Consider keeping your child at home for the day; if the flu is the culprit, then coughing or fever, aches and pains will appear within 24 hours.

Skin rash: Impetigo is highly contagious, as are scabies; most other rashes are not. Measles and scarlet fever, of course, are contagious, but with these a fever accompanies the rash. Roseola is not contagious by the time the rash appears; Fifth disease may be contagious, but it is mainly a hazard to pregnant women, and people with immunosuppression or hemolytic anemia. Poison ivy and insect bites may look awful, but of course are not contagious, so if they are the cause of the rash, then it’s safe to send your child to school.


Keep reading for three more common ailments.

Abdominal Pain: This can be an early sign of strep throat, pneumonia or appendicitis, so I recommend that the child be kept out of school. If the child can’t even look at food or it hurts to walk or jump, then immediate medical attention is warranted.

Fever: A fever above 100.5 is a sure sign that your child should stay home until it is resolved. There are exceptions, though. For example, if your young child has mono, it’s fine to send him or her to school once the worst is over. Now that we have the varicella vaccine, mono is the most common infection of which "the earlier you get it, the better" is true. It is a minor nuisance in pre-K, and a common cause of failing a semester in college. If the fever is due to mumps, then remember that mumps are contagious far longer than there is fever.

Cough: Coughing can be tricky because its cause and communicability depend on the severity and persistence of the cough, as well as epidemics that may be going around (such as whooping cough). If the cough is accompanied by vomiting or fainting at the end of an episode, the coughs coming in rapid succession (paroxysms), shortness of breath; or stridor (a wheeze-like sound while inhaling), then take the child to the doctor. These symptoms could be a sign of serious illness and should receive medical attention.

Check back Sunday on Lil to see what Dr. Belilovsky advises for seven other common ailments.

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