When Should I Keep my Baby or Child Home?

First Aid Neon

Babies and kids can get sick up to a dozen times a year as they build their immunity to common childhood diseases. Each infection can last up to two weeks, so parents often wonder when to keep their child home and when can they go back.

Children can be contagious for days before they show any symptoms and can spread some infection for three weeks afterward.

General reasons to keep your child home include:

  • Fever (temperature over 100.4F/38C) in the last 24 hours
  • The child can’t stop coughing and the cough is interfering with the child’s day or the day of those are her*
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea that cannot be contained in the diaper or need close access to bathroom
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis). Children may usually return after 24 hours of prescription antibiotic eyedrops
  • Children with strep throat may return after 24 hours of antibiotics
  • Children who need more TLC than daycare and school can provide while they recover

The Bananas child care sick policy is a comprehensive list of conditions for which a baby or child should be kept at home.

*Despite the current “catch your cough” craze, sneezing and coughing are best done into a tissue which is then thrown away and then the hands washed. Coughing and sneezing into the hands of the elbow of clothing leaves mucus on hands and clothing which is then spread by touching. Use tissues and wash hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizer is useful when there is no soap and water.




About Lisa M. Asta, MD

Lisa M. Asta, M.D. is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for which she is also a Media Representative (she has been interviewed for “Kids Health” on Health Radio, and quoted in Parenting Magazine, USA Today, and the New York Times, among other publications). She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and past pediatric chair at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Asta is also a writer whose fiction has appeared in Inkwell, Philadelphia Stories, Schuylkill, and Zeniada. Her essays have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hippocrates, the San Jose Mercury News, and The New Physician Magazine. She is an occasional contributor to KQED public radio’s Perspectives series, and has written articles for Bay Area Parent, Valley Parent, Parents’ Press, and Parents Express, as well as online at WebMD.com, Rx.com, and MyLifePath.com. She wrote a chapter in The Field Guide to the Normal Newborn, ed. Gary Emmet, M.D. BabyCenter.com currently has two how-to videos for parents in production which feature Dr. Asta. For more on Dr. Asta’s writing, visit www.LMAsta.com
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