Sick Kids and Daycare: When to Send Them

Ann Douglas's picture

by Ann Douglas

sick childYou're doing the morning hustle to get everyone ready and out the door when you spot flushed cheeks or hear a rattling cough. You turn to spy your normally energetic 3-year-old dragging. Everything grinds to a halt as your mind whirs through your plans for the day. It's judgment time as you have to make the call whether to send your child on to daycare/school or keep them home. This short guide can help you in your decision process:

Chicken Pox

Symptoms:
Fever and headache; rash within 24 hrs. Itching for four days. Blisters appear in crops over 3 to 4 days, turning to crusty scabs. Symptoms appear 11 to 21 days after exposure.

Transmission:
Spread through the air and by direct contact with blister fluid, saliva, phlegm, or articles freshly soiled by the sick child.

Infectious Period:
Up to five days before the onset of the rash, and not more than five days after the spots appear.

When infected child can return to school or daycare?
When all lesions are dry (at least five days after the first crop of lesions appeared).

When siblings can return to school or daycare?
Sibling should only be attending school or daycare if they have already had the chickenpox.

Common Cold

Symptoms:
Runny nose, sore throat, cough, decreased appetite.

Transmission:
Spread through the air and via contaminated hands and objects.

Infectious Period:
From one day before to seven days after onset of symptoms.

When infected child can return to school or daycare?
Child can attend school or daycare unless too ill to take part in activities.

When siblings can return to school or daycare?
No need for siblings to stay home.

Conjunctivitis -- (Pink Eye)

Symptoms:
Red swollen eye(s); then thick, yellow discharge and crusting. Eyes itch and smart; no pain. Symptoms appear 24 to 72 hours after exposure.

Transmission:
Spread by touching the eye or through contact with articles soiled with discharge or phlegm.

Infectious Period:
Contagious until treated.

When infected child can return to school or daycare?
When whites of eyes are clear and crusting is gone.

When siblings can return to school or daycare?
No need for siblings to stay home unless they are also infected.

Ear Infections

Symptoms:
Earache; irritability, fever, and cold symptoms.

Transmission:
Not infectious.

Infectious Period:
Not infectious.

When infected child can return to school or daycare?
No need for child to stay home unless he/she is not feeling well enough to go.

When siblings can return to school or daycare?
No need for siblings to stay home.

Fever

Symptoms:
Temperature over 38.5 degrees C. A child with a temperature of 40 degrees C and higher will look and feel sick.

Transmission:
Not infectious.

Infectious Period:
Not infectious.

When infected child can return to school or daycare?
Keep child away from school or daycare until he/she is feeling well enough to return.

When siblings can return to school or daycare?
No need for siblings to stay home unless they are also have a fever.

Gastroenteritis - (i.e. campylobacter, E.coli, Shigella, Yersinia, viral)

Symptoms:
Poor appetite, vomiting, stomach cramps, watery or bloody diarrhea. Symptoms usually appear 24 to 72 hours after exposure.

Transmission:
Spread through contact with stool or through contaminated food, milk, or water. Also spread by people with poor hygiene habits.

Infectious Period:
Contagious while symptoms are present.

When infected child can return to school or daycare?
When diarrhea stops and stool tests are negative.

When siblings can return to school or daycare?
No need for siblings to stay home unless they are also infected.

Impetigo

Symptoms:
Blisters, then honey-colored crusts on red base; often located around mouth, nose, and diaper area. Symptoms take four to ten days to appear.

Transmission:
Spread through contact with sores. Infection can be spread to other parts of the body by the child's fingers.

Infectious Period:
Contagious until sores are dry.

When infected child can return to school or daycare?
When sores are dry.

When siblings can return to school or daycare?
No need for siblings to stay home unless they are also infected.

Red Measles

Symptoms:
Fever, cough, red eyes, runny nose, red spots in mouth, swollen neck glands. Blotchy red rash spreads from face to neck to body over three days. Symptoms appear seven to eighteen days after exposure, with rash appearing on or about the fourteenth day.

Transmission:
Spread through direct or airborne contact with saliva, phlegm, or articles soiled by the sick child.

Infectious Period:
Contagious from four days before to four days after rash appears.

When infected child can return to school or daycare?
Child can return to school or daycare anytime after the fourth day after the rash starts, if he/she feels well enough.

When siblings can return to school or daycare?
Siblings may continue to attend school or daycare as long as they are immunized or immune. If they have not been immunized, they may need a measles vaccine or immune globulin.

Pediculosis - (Head Lice)

Symptoms:
Itchy scalp. Live lice are tiny wingless insects that crawl into the hair. Nits are tiny egg-shaped deposits which are firmly attached to the hair. Symptoms appear eight to ten days after exposure.

Transmission:
Spread by direct head-to-head contact or by sharing clothing, hats, combs, and brushes.

Infectious Period:
Contagious until treated and nits are gone.

When infected child can return to school or daycare?
After treatment.

When siblings can return to school or daycare?
Siblings may continue to go to school or daycare as long as they are not infected.

Pertussis -- (Whopping Cough)

Symptoms:
Cold-like symptoms with irritating cough. Coughing is prolonged and severe, and it may be characterized by a high-pitched whoop or crowing. Symptoms appear seven to ten days after exposure.

Transmission:
Spread through direct or airborne contact with saliva, phlegm, or articles soiled by the sick child.

Infectious Period:
Contagious for up to three weeks after start of cough or up to five days after antibiotics are started.

When infected child can return to school or daycare?
After at least five days of antibiotic treatment, assuming child feels well.

When siblings can return to school or daycare?
Siblings may continue to attend school or daycare as long as they are immunized or immune. If they have not been immunized, they may need a booster shot and antibiotic.

Rubella

Symptoms:
Mild fever, headache, cough, red eyes, runny nose. Swollen glands at back of neck. May not feel ill. Rash consists of mottled or raised spots spreading from face to neck to body over 12 to 24 hours. Symptoms appear 14 to 23 days after exposure.

Transmission:
Spread through direct contact with phlegm, saliva, or articles soiled by the sick child. People without symptoms can spread the infection.

Infectious Period:
Contagious from seven days before to four days after rash appears.

When infected child can return to school or daycare?
Child should stay home for seven days after rash appears and should avoid contact with non-immune pregnant women.

When siblings can return to school or daycare?
Siblings may continue to attend school or daycare as long as they are uninfected and have been immunized against the disease.

Scarlet Fever

Symptoms:
Sore throat and fever; fine red rash which feels like sandpaper and fades on pressure. Most often appears on neck, chest, folds of armpits, elbow, groin, and inner parts of thighs. Symptoms appear one to three days after exposure.

Transmission:
Spread through direct contact with phlegm, saliva, or articles soiled by the sick child. Limited spread through the air. People without symptoms can spread the infection.

Infectious Period:
Contagious for 10 to 21 days after exposure, or 24 to 48 hours after antibiotics have been started.

When infected child can return to school or daycare?
Child can return to school 48 hours after the start of antibiotics if he/she is feeling well.

When siblings can return to school or daycare?
Siblings may continue to attend school as long as they are not infected.

Strep Throat

Symptoms:
Fever; sore throat.

Transmission:
Spread person to person.

Infectious Period:
Contagious until 24 hours after the start of treatment.

When infected child can return to school or daycare?
Child can return to school 24 hours after the start of treatment.

When siblings can return to school or daycare?
Siblings may continue to attend school as long as they are not infected.

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.