Any day that ends in Y is a candidate for a sick day when it comes to pre-schoolers.

Pulling a child out of daycare every time they have the sniffles is unrealistic, at best. Luckily, most daycare facilities have easily followed guidelines for when to leave a child at home.

Quick Answer:

Each daycare should have clear health guidelines that are communicated with parents. Children should not attend daycare if they have had a fever within the last 24 hours. They should not be brought to daycare if they are vomiting or have diarrhea. Parents should also follow all COVID-19 protocols.

*FYI some of the links in this article about when should a kid stay home from a day care center may be affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase we may get a commission (at no extra cost to you). There’s no medical or professional advice being given. Make sure to speak to your physician and your daycare facility before following this or any other suggestion. For more info please see our disclaimer.

When Should Children Stay Home from Childcare?

Children have the uncanny ability to pick up every germ within a mile. I’ll share with you how you know when to stay home with them and when to send them on their merry way.

1. Stay Home With a Fever

Despite what you might have learned in health class, a fever is not any temperature above 98.6F. A temperature is not considered to be a fever until it reaches 100.4F. Once it gets that high or higher, it’s time to keep your child home.

The basic reason to keep a child with a fever home is to keep them from spreading any illness they may have. Your child might still be contagious even after that fever has broken, which is why most child care facilities ask you to keep your young child home for 24 hours after the temperature goes back to normal.

What about fever suppressing medication, like acetaminophen? While these drugs do work to lower the fever, they don’t prevent contagion. Your child should be kept home even if their fever is lowered by over-the-counter meds.

Related: Do Daycares Give Over-the-Counter Medications?

2. Stay Home With COVID-19 Symptoms

It isn’t simple enough to say that children should go to daycare unless they have a fever. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that even mild symptoms can be the sign of something much more serious.

Still, especially in young children, it’s not reasonable to stay home with every runny nose. Instead, use CDC guidelines and get to know what rules the daycare has in place regarding COVID-19.

At a minimum, if your child has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and they are showing symptoms of the disease, keep them home. The symptoms to look out for include but are not limited to: fever, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, body aches, headache, sore throat, runny nose, nausea, diarrhea, and loss of taste or smell.

3. Stay Home With Diarrhea or Vomiting

If your child has diarrhea or has been vomiting within the last 24 hours, do not send them to daycare. There are many reasons for this, the most obvious of which is keeping a sickness from spreading around to the other children and staff at the daycare.

Your child may be the type who bounces back very quickly. If this is true, congratulations! Your day at home should be somewhat easy. However, you cannot send a child to daycare knowing they have recently been up to their elbows in vomit. Keep them home, monitor them, and feel lucky they are getting well.

What if the diarrhea and vomiting was caused by food poisoning rather than an illness? It’s a good idea to keep them home anyway. An upset stomach can take at least a day to recover. Let them rest, drink plenty of fluids and enjoy warm snuggles from mom or dad.

4. Stay Home With Head Lice

It should go without saying, but a child who has contracted head lice needs to stay home until there is no sign of the parasite. Keeping your child home will help to keep the lice from spreading around the daycare and returning to your child once again.

Get rid of head lice by using a special shampoo that kills the lice and any eggs they have laid. Talk to your physician first to make sure you choose a shampoo that won’t cause damage to delicate skin.

It’s not enough to simply wash your child’s hair and call it a day. You will also need to wash all clothing, bedding, and plush toys in hot water. You may need to heavily shampoo and vacuum floors, upholstered fabrics, and the interior of your car and car seat.

Don’t forget to check the scalps of everyone in the family as well. Your child’s head may not be the only one that needs lice treatment before you can all return to your regular schedules.

Lice Treatment Kit by Lice Clinics
This kit has everything you need to treat and get rid of head lice.

5. Stay Home Wish Sores or Rashes

If your child’s symptoms include unusual rashes or sores it’s probably best to get them checked out before sending them to daycare. The reason for this is because if your child has sores that are oozing and they have an infectious disease there an increased chance it could be spread to other children.

As for the rashes what I think about are illnesses like chickenpox where one of the common symptom is a rash. In situations like that, it’s best to get your child checked out and cleared by their pediatrician before sending them to their childcare center.

When to Go to Daycare

There are a number of illnesses that keep a child home from daycare, but what about those situations where you’re just not sure?

1. Seasonal Allergy

Seasonal allergies are no reason to stay home unless they are extremely severe and the doctor orders them to stay home. A child who develops a rash from an allergy should be able to go to school as long as they are not so uncomfortable that they need a parent to watch over them.

Personal Story
I have some personal experiences with this type of allergy. My son developed a rash every spring from sun exposure. This started when he was just a toddler.

It was red, raised, covered his entire exposed body, and looked extremely painful. However, it never bothered him at all.

There was no itching associated with it and it went away after about a week. It would reappear the following spring, year after year.

Each time, a daycare provider or, as he grew older, a school teacher would call us to send him home. Each time, we would provide a note from his pediatrician stating it was a rare but harmless disorder that would eventually “run its course.”

Indeed, now that he is older, that sensitivity is just a memory. We had no reason to keep him out of daycare for something that was not contagious and had no ill effects on his health.

2. Light Cold

Light colds are not a reason to miss daycare. Unless you believe your child may have been exposed to COVID-19, a lightly runny nose or stuffy nose without a fever shouldn’t present any true problems. Do your best to teach toddlers how to wipe their noses and cover their sneezes, but otherwise, let them continue with their day as planned.

3. Benign Rash

I mentioned earlier that playing it safe with rashes is probably best. While that’s true it’s worth mentioning that there are certain rashes that could be benign or not contagious.

For example, a rash caused by Fifth disease might not keep a child out of daycare. While Fifth Disease is contagious while it is active, the rash doesn’t appear until after the contagion has run its course.

Regardless this is a decision that’s best left up to your pediatrician, but something you should be aware of.

4. Non-Serious Injury

Children who have faced an injury that is not life-threatening should be able to return to daycare with few problems. A broken arm or leg might require some modifications, but they should continue to attend daycare with ease once any pain has been managed.

A Sick Child is Not Fun

Your child’s daycare experience may be interrupted by illness, but not every sickness requires a stay at home.

Use this guide to help you decide the right course of action. Do you have anything to add to this post? Share your stories with us in the comments!

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