Is My Child Too Sick for School?

Now that kids are back in school for in-person learning, it’s time to brush up on the signs and symptoms that mean your child is too sick for school. Recognizing the symptoms of a possibly contagious illness may be more important now than ever. While statistics suggest that children do not get sick with COVID-19 symptoms as often as adults, it is still entirely possible for them to get the virus. So you should still be on the lookout for signs of infection from COVID-19 as well as other illnesses that spread through schools like the flu. 

Signs Your Child is Too Sick for School

The following signs can help you make a wise decision and keep your child home from school so both they and their classmates can be as healthy as possible.


If your child has a temperature at or above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, you should keep them home. According to the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), 100.4 is the temperature that signals a fever. Since a fever means your child’s body is fighting off infection, they are likely contagious. Fever can be one of the symptoms of COVID-19 as well as many common childhood illnesses. It’s best to wait at least 24 hours until after your child’s fever has subsided without any medications before sending them back to school.

Respiratory Symptoms

While a cough might normally just be a symptom of a common cold or another less serious illness, now any type of respiratory symptom means that a child should stay home. Cough, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, or difficulty breathing are all potential signs of COVID-19. If your child exhibits these symptoms they are too sick for school and you should contact their pediatrician. 


Children who are falling asleep while doing their homework or eating dinner are likely fatigued and should not be sitting in a classroom all day. If your child is fatigued, keep them home from school while encouraging them to rest and drink plenty of water. If they are extremely fatigued even if they get enough sleep, it could be a sign of an illness and you should consult the pediatrician.

Diarrhea and Vomiting

It can be very difficult for children to deal with diarrhea and vomiting in a school setting. Therefore, if your child is showing any of these symptoms, it’s best for everyone if you keep them home. It’s wise to wait for a minimum of at least 24 hours after their last episode of diarrhea or vomiting before allowing them to return to school.

Eye Irritation

Watery, itchy eyes can make it a challenge for your child to learn. If your child has eye irritation, take them to the doctor to make sure they don’t have pink eye or another contagious condition that can spread in school. Your child’s pediatrician can give you guidance on when it is safe for your child to return to school if they have an eye infection.


If your child is complaining of a headache, earache, stomach ache, or any other type of body ache or pain, they may be fighting the flu and they are too sick for school. Since the flu can easily spread to their classmates, you should keep them home until their pain has diminished.

Signs Your Child is Ready to Return to School

There are a number of signs that can indicate your child is ready to return to school after a sick day or several sick days. If they no longer have a fever, are only experiencing mild symptoms such as a runny nose, have taken doctor prescribed medications for at least 24 hours, and look and act like they feel better, it’s likely safe for them to go back.

Contact Wake Forest Pediatrics

The providers at Wake Forest Pediatrics strive to improve patient care by strengthening the patient-doctor relationship, providing open communication, and working as a team for a comprehensive approach to medical care. To talk to our team about when your child is too sick for school, call our Wake Forest office at 919-556-4779 or our Knightdale office at 919-266-5059 to make an appointment.

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