When the first sign of a stomach bug or severe cold enters your house, it can feel like a ticking time bomb. In a short matter of time, your entire household could succumb to the illness!
From sleepless nights and missed days at work and school, short of buying everyone in your family a hazmat suit, you may wonder if it’s safe to send your kids to school when a sibling or parent is fighting off an illness. Do you send the healthy ones to school or keep them home? When is it safe to send your sick child back to school?
Devin Minior, MD, physician executive at Banner Health Urgent Care and Banner Occupational Health, answers these questions and shares tips for keeping your kids, and yourself, healthy while another family member is sick.
Is it Safe to Send My Healthy Kids to School When Another Is Sick?
You may assume that if one child is sick, the illness has already infiltrated your home. Most often, that’s not the case, says Dr. Minior. “As long as siblings are not having symptoms and have good hand hygiene, they can generally go to school.”
However, he cautions that may not be the case for daycare centers.
“Some daycares require even asymptomatic siblings stay home, so check their policies,” Dr. Minior says. “Sometimes, they recommend that siblings of a child with gastrointestinal issues, such as persistent diarrhea and vomiting, should stay home from daycare.”
When Is It Safe to Send My Sick Child Back to School?
If your child has a fever of 101 degrees or higher, has a severe cough, vomiting, diarrhea or appears fairly ill, they should stay home and away from others, even with basic symptoms like a simple cold or pink eye. They are safe to return to school after 24 hours of no fever and symptoms. “Once they are acting at their baseline, such as eating and drinking and playing, it is reasonable to send them back to school.”
If you still aren’t sure whether you should keep your child home or not, contact your pediatrician.
Don’t Throw in the Towel
The best offense to fighting off illness in your home is a good defense, so don’t feel defeated. Here are some tips to help deter the spread of an illness:
Hand washing is crucial. Nearly 80 percent of infectious diseases are spread by touch. From eye rubbing to booger picking, kids can be walking viruses. Have your kiddos scrub their hands with antibacterial soap for 20 seconds, the time it takes to sing their ABCs, making sure they scrub between their fingers and on the tops of their hands.
To minimize the number of items you need to keep track of to disinfect, keep your child in one area of the house. Disinfect anything they have touched (i.e., iPads, toilet) twice a day. If your child is old enough, they can help disinfect too.
Don’t share food, cups, utensils or even toothpaste. Set aside the sick child’s items so there is no confusion. If they share a bathroom, you may consider having the healthy ones use another.
Do what you can to take precautions and be prepared for missed work and school. All parents know that it’s bound to happen. When your child shows signs of illness, set up an appointment with your Banner Health pediatrician and get them back on the path to health right away.
Did you know Banner Urgent Care locations are open after-hours? Find an Urgent Care Location Near You →
Update as of July 22, 2020: During COVID-19, each of us need to be extra careful doing those little (but important) things to prevent spreading germs. Washing hands, disinfecting items and not sharing are that much more important. If someone gets sick in your household, try your best to socially distance and wear a mask around others (even your family members). Typically, a sick family member can be considered “safe” and past their illness once 10 days has passed since onset, and that person has been without any symptoms for at least three days (with the exception of a small residual cough).