Health Services - Sick Child Guidelines

It is known that children have been kept home from school for reasons other than illness. Unnecessary absence from school may have a negative effect on a student’s attitude, work habit and progress. One of the challenges most often confronting parents of school-aged children occurs when a child complains of not feeling well on a school day. A decision must be made as to whether the child stays home or goes to school. 

How Do You Make The Right Decision?

You do not want to keep a child home if he/she is not sick; but you also do not want to send a sick child to school.

Become familiar with the symptoms as outlined here. Use your own good common sense and remember: These guidelines are designed to be followed until your doctor can be contacted for his/her opinion. This should be done without delay. 


A fever is a warning that all is not right with the body. The best way to check for a fever is with a thermometer. A child with a temperature of 100° or over should be kept at home. When no thermometer is available, check the child’s forehead with the back or your hand. If it is hot, keep your child home until the temperature can be checked with a thermometer. Do not allow your child to return to school until he/she has been fever-free for over 24 hours. 


A rash may be the first sign of illness, such as measles or chicken pox. A rash or “spots” may cover the entire body or may appear in only one area. Do not send your child to school with a rash until your doctor has said it is safe to do so.

Stomachache, Vomiting, Diarrhea

Consult your doctor if your child has a stomachache that is persistent or severe enough to limit his/her activity. If vomiting occurs, keep your child home until he/she can keep down his/her food. A child with diarrhea should be kept home until they are symptom free for 24 hours. Call your doctor if prompt improvement does not occur.


Contact your child's dentist.


Contact your child's doctor as soon as possible. 


A child whose only complaint is a headache usually does not need to be kept home. 

Cold, Sore Throat, Cough

The common cold presents the most frequent problem to parents. A child with a “mild” cold and a deep or barking cough belongs at home in bed, even if he/she doesn’t have a fever. If your child complains of a sore throat and has no other symptoms, he/she may go to school. If white spots can be seen in the back of the throat or if fever is present, keep your child home and call your doctor. 

Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis or pink eye is highly contagious and uncomfortable, so be aware of complaints of burning, itching or eyes producing whitish discharge. This requires treatment with prescription eye drops. Keep your child home for 24 hours after appropriate treatment has been initiated and signs and symptoms are greatly reduced. 

If you keep your child home from school for any reason, please contact the school office. 

Joseph Gaw, Ed.D., MSN, BSN, RN
Director of School Health Services
Posted/Revised Date

Guidelines for parents to determine if their child should stay home from school due to illness.

article, 2022-2023, school, tucson, student health services