Too sick for school? Sick kids report stirs up national conversation

When kids wake up feeling ill, parents often have to make a quick judgment call about whether or not they’re well enough to go to school. This month’s Mott Poll report highlighted the struggle parents face when deciding what to do with their sick child. This report has generated a lot of discussion across regional and national media sources. Here’s a roundup of the conversation.

Will their symptoms interfere with the school day?

The severity and nature of children’s symptoms were the focus of a CBS News story: How to know when to keep your sick child from school. Some symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting could cause a considerable disruption to the school day, so parents of kids with these symptoms are more likely to keep their children home. But for symptoms like red watery eyes or a cough with no fever, the decision isn’t always as clear. Reporter Ashley Welch consulted with CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula about the challenge of determining if children with mild symptoms can go to school. Dr. Narula recommended that parents consider whether their child’s symptoms would interfere with their school work and if it isn’t clear, to rely on their own instincts or call their child’s health care provider for some guidance.

Conflicts in school policies about illnesses

Sometimes parents don’t have a say in whether or not they can send their slightly sick child to school. This was discussed in an NPR Shots blog post: Should My Slightly Sick Child Stay Home? The Rules Often Conflict. Although our Mott Poll report focused on children ages 6-18, reporter Katherine Hobson noted that for younger children in day care centers and preschools, there are often exclusionary policies that prevent parents from sending their child with certain symptoms. These policies vary from center to center and don’t always line up with expert guidelines.  Exclusionary policies often cause parents to miss work and seek medical care for their children in order to get permission to allow them back into child care.

Are they sick enough to stay home?

Even with mild symptoms, it can be hard to predict how long a child’s illness will last or if their symptoms will get worse. This was addressed in an MLive article: See the top reasons parents keep sick children out of school. Reporter Martin Slagter highlighted reasons parents might keep their child home with mild symptoms, including not wanting to spread the illness among classmates and worrying that their illness might get worse if they go to school. 

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