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When to Notify School About an Illness

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

With cold and GI viruses already plentiful and more illness ahead for winter, I thought I could lend a hand to help you determine when should you let your school know about your child’s illness? Let me say, this is a ‘tricky’ question, as kids are sick frequently.

I personally think you should always call the school to let them know your child is going to miss school, and many schools have an attendance line for this information. If your child is running a fever in the afternoon, you know they will not be going to school the following day (remember 24 hours fever free) go ahead and call the carpool and the school to let them know that your child will be absent.

I do not think they need to know whether you have cough, cold, vomiting, strep throat or mono, as these illnesses are always circulating in the community and are not life threatening.

For a school to send a note home for every illness is just not feasible and once you enter a school environment, you can plan on being exposed to some of these illnesses. It might be appropriate to tell your carpool mates what you have, but notes do not need to go home to the entire class every time someone is sick. It sometimes only sounds unnecessary alarms to read what all is going on in a classroom. On the other hand vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, chicken pox or mumps should be reported, as should diseases like meningitis.

Unfortunately, your child will get some of these colds, coughs, strep throats and maybe even mono, despite good hand hygiene and precautions. But if your child is sick, keep them home so that others are not intentionally exposed.

There isn’t a test, or a play or a game that cannot be missed for illness. One or two days at home may be the best medicine for many illnesses and may also help keep the entire class a little healthier. If everyone helps to decrease exposure, there will be less need for notes about the latest class illness.

That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat agin tomorrow.

Send your question to Dr. Sue!

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