When to Keep Your Kids Home from School | News | Loyola Medicine
Monday, March 16, 2015

Loyola pediatrician shares tips about when to keep kids home from school

MAYWOOD, Ill. – (March 11, 2015) For many reasons, a child being home from school while sick can be stressful. Parents worry about the severity of their child’s illness and about the child missing school, all while trying to shuffle work schedules to be home. 

“Being a parent is a juggling act, but throw in a child being home sick from school and the delicate balance topples. Many parents ask: When is it important to keep my child home from school and when should I send them?” said Hannah Chow-Johnson, MD, pediatrician at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Schools are a perfect place for infectious diseases to thrive, so it’s important for parents to be vigilant when it comes to their child’s health. 

“There are times when it’s best for the child and his or her classmates to just remain at home,” said Chow.

Chow gives some guidelines to help parents make that decision.

Pinkeye. Conjunctivitis, better known as pinkeye, is extremely contagious and is usually caused by a virus. One of the first signs of pinkeye is discomfort. Other symptoms include a sticky discharge that can cause the eyelids to stick together and the area around the eye can look red and swollen. 

“Your child is contagious with bacterial or viral conjunctivitis until the redness and discharge are gone. If the cause is viral eye drops won’t help. The only cure is time. Don’t send your child to school until the redness is gone,” said Chow.

Stomach problems. Gastroenteritis or the stomach flu can cause vomiting and diarrhea. It is primarily caused by a virus and a child needs rest and take gradual fluids to recover.

“Children should not go back to school until both the vomiting and diarrhea are gone for 24 hours,” said Chow.

Coughing. According to Chow, if a child has a steady cough, a hacking cough or coughing fits he or she should stay home. It’s also important for children and adults to be vaccinated against pertussis or whooping cough.

“A child can go to school with a minor cough, but the child should practice good coughing hygiene, such as coughing into a tissue or their elbow and washing hands frequently,” Chow said.

Fevers. Most schools have a policy that a child can’t attend if they have a fever higher than 100 degrees and the child needs to be fever-free for 24 hours before returning to school.

“This is a good policy. If a child has fever that means he or she needs rest. The fever itself is not contagious but is causes the body to slow down to rest and recuperate,” Chow said.

Sore throat. Many parents think sore throat means strep throat, but in 70 percent of the cases the pain is caused by a virus. Symptoms of strep also include headache, stomachache and fevers. Sometimes there is a sunburn-like rash on the throat. 

“Children with strep are contagious and should not be in school until they have been on an antibiotic for 24 hours. If it is a viral infection, go by comfort level as far as returning to school,” said Chow.

Lice. Unfortunately those stubborn bugs mean no school for kids. They are tenacious and can quickly spread through a classroom.

“Most schools have a no-nits policy. Before returning to school a child must have completed a lice treatment but that isn’t enough. Parents must use a fine tooth comb to remove all nits and prevent lice recurrence before a child can return to school,” Chow said. 

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.