Written by: Cally Worden
When I was as kid you only ever took time off school if you were really poorly. It was the days before vaccines were commonplace, a good excuse for a week off meant you had measles, or the like. A tummy ache or runny nose simply didn’t cut it. We did try it on of course, but most of the time if we could walk without falling over then we had to go to school. Times have changed, perceived wisdom these days often seems to be to keep your bugs to yourself, with many schools adopting a policy of kids being unwelcome in school if they are showing any signs of illness. So what to do if your child is looking peaky?
Common Sense Check
If your child’s school has a specific policy regarding illness, then obviously you must follow that. In the absence of guidance, however, common sense must prevail. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Could my child undertake all the activities that will be required at school today?
- Is my child likely to pass on what they have got – i.e., are they infectious (bugs can pass through the air) or contagious (bugs can pass via physical contact)?
- If it were me suffering from this would I still go to work?
Obviously, a child who is unable to function properly, or who runs the risk of spreading nasty bugs around, should really be kept at home. But we all know it’s never that clear cut. Kids can be smart, lulling us into imagining they are feeling worse than they are. In some cases it can be very tricky to arrange time off work, or suitable childcare to look after your child at such short notice. Only you can make that decision, but you know your child best, so go with your instincts. The following guidelines may also help you decide whether to keep your child home or not.
Some Common Conditions
Most of the time when children are poorly it is due to a minor and common health condition. In these cases your decision on whether to keep your child home or not will probably depend on how badly you feel they are suffering.
- Cold and Cough – a common cold is generally not a good enough reason to stay off school. We all get them, you just have to learn to live with it. But if the cold is coupled with a fever or drowsiness, or the cough persists, it may be time for a few days rest and a visit to your GP to make sure there is nothing more serious going on
- Sore Throat – this can be miserable but isn’t a particularly serious condition. Your child can normally attend school if their throat hurts, some cough medicine and a pack of lozenges can go a long way to making them feel better. When accompanied by a temperature or other signs your child is unwell, however, a sore throat could be a sign of something more serious, it is wiser to keep your child home, consulting your GP for advice if their condition does not improve
- Fever – a raised temperature is one of the body’s defence mechanisms against bugs. If your child has a fever, it is best to keep them off until the temperature returns to normal. Their body is busy battling a bug and rest will help greatly with that
- Skin Rash – a skin rash can be a sign of many things – allergy, infectious illness such as chickenpox or measles, a virus of some form and so on. If you are unsure of what the rash is then keep your child home and visit your GP for advice
- Headaches – on its own a headache is not a good enough reason to stay off school. But if other issues complement the discomfort, such as a temperature, rash, or fatigue then it may be necessary to give your child a break. Consult your GP if you are at all concerned about your child’s overall condition or demeanour
- Chickenpox – some children with Chickenpox don’t suffer much at all, where others can feel very poorly indeed. A child is infectious for approximately two weeks prior to their spots appearing and until they have crusted over. However your child is feeling, you should keep them off school at the very least until all spots are covered
- Sickness and Diarrhoea – this one is a no-brainer. Gastro-bugs spread very easily, if your child is suffering from one of these they should definitely remain home. General advice is to keep them off until at least 48 hours after their last evacuation. In most cases, sickness and diarrhoea will clear up by itself, but if the symptoms continue you need to speak to a Doctor