Ask the Expert: Is Your Child Too Sick for School?

Question: How do you decide if your child is too sick for school?

It may be one of the hardest decisions of your day – when should you keep your child home from school or daycare. Pediatrician Dr. Kimberly Albert with The Austin Diagnostic Clinic Cedar Park shares some advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics ( and her own years of practice.

Look for these signs and ask yourself these questions:

1. Fever: if your child has a fever 100.5 or higher – keep them home. Chances are they may have an underlying illness like the flu or a virus.
2. Respiratory: Is your child wheezing or short of breath?
3. Food/Water: Can your child keep down fluids or food? Has it been at least 24 hours since they last had vomiting or diarrhea? Prolonged bouts of vomiting and diarrhea may put your child at risk for dehydration.
4. Coughing: In Central Texas, a cough may be a sign of allergies or asthma but a serious cough may be symptomatic of contagious conditions like whooping cough, viral bronchitis or croup. Is the cough worsening? Are there coughing fits?
5. Sore throat with fever and no runny nose or cough that suggest a cold.
6. Other signs: stiffness in the neck, decreased alertness are both very serious symptoms and your child should be seen by a doctor.

When should I see a doctor?AdvertisementIf your child becomes lethargic, fever lasts more than 3-4 days or fever that last less than 2 days without any other symptoms, breathing difficulties, vomiting lasting longer than 48 hours, no urine output for more than 6-8 hours or symptoms increase then see your pediatrician.

When can my child return to school?
In general, your child may return to school if they are fever-free for 24 hours without medication; are eating and drinking normally; symptoms have subsided and they feel well enough to participate in school.

Keeping them healthy all year
The most important thing you can do to keep your child healthy is to keep their immunizations up to date. Practice good hygiene by washing hands often; make healthy food choices to keep their bodies strong, and make sure your kids are getting adequate sleep!

Need help with symptoms?
ADC Pediatrics offers a Symptom Checker on their website for a quick assessment of your child’s condition. Check it out here:

Kimberly Albert, MD is a board-certified pediatrician at ADC Cedar Park, 1401 Medical Parkway, Building C, Suite 150. She joined ADC in 1998 and has cared for thousands of Central Texas children in her practice. For more information about Dr. Albert, Pediatrics or The Austin Diagnostic Clinic visit or call 512-901-1111.

The Austin Diagnostic Clinic: Caring for Central Texans Since 1952
Catherine Prystup
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Catherine Prystup founded out of a desire to build a better community for Austin-area moms. She has three children, ages seventeen, eight and three years old.