School is back in session, and whether it’s a sore throat, a runny nose, or something else, it can sometimes be difficult for parents to decide if their child is too sick to go to class. Keeping an ill student out of school is important—not only for recovery, but also for the prevention of the spread of illness to classmates and faculty. As important as staying home with illness is, with working caregivers and a busy schedule, keeping a child home may be a nearly-impossible task. To help busy parents and caregivers decide if their child really needs to take a sick day, we at UAB Medical West have compiled a list of “Stay Home” characteristics:


·     Fever.Fever is usually a sign that the body is fighting off an illness. A fever of 100.4°F or higher should keep your child out of school—even with no other symptoms. Most schools require students to be fever-free for at least 24-hours before returning to class. If the fever does not resolve itself within two or more days, have your child see a doctor.

·     Vomiting.If the student has vomited two or more times within 24-hours, they need to take a sick day, even if accompanied by no other symptoms. Also, be sure to watch out for signs of dehydration. 

·     Sore Throat.Sore throats can make things trickier when deciding whether or not to take a sick day. Sometimes, sore throats can be the result of minor sinus drainage, which is okay, unless the problem persists for days on end. However, the child should stay out of class if the sore throat is accompanied by a headache or fever. Swollen glands and white spots on the tonsils are signs of tonsillitis and strep throat, so take a trip to the doctor if the student is experiencing these symptoms. If the child happens to be put on antibiotics after seeing a doctor, keep the child home until they have been taking the medicine for at least 24-hours.

·     Stomachache.Oftentimes, stomachaches can be linked to poor dietary habits, such as an excessive amount of junk food. The student should, however, stay home if the stomachaches are accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, or fever. 

·     Runny Nose and Congestion. On average, children generally get anywhere between six to ten colds per year, and not every one of those colds is worth a sick day. With common cold symptoms such as a runny nose and congestion, send the kids to school with extra hand sanitizer and tissues if their attitude is normal and if they are eating. Over-the-counter medication can oftentimes help. Keep the student home if their runny nose and congestion is paired with lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever, or headache—as these are signs that something more serious is developing and will require medical attention.

·     Red Eyes.Your child is safe to go to school if the white part of their eye is only slightly pink and if the discharge is clear and watery. This is usually due to allergies, which can be helped with over-the-counter medication. The student is unable to go to school if their eye is stuck shut or sticky, if the eye is a deep or bright red color, or if the eye is oozing yellow or green-tinted discharge. These are symptoms of conjunctivitis (pink eye), which is highly contagious. If your child is experiencing symptoms of pink eye, have them visit their doctor.