When is Your Child too Sick for Child Care?

Sick ChildOne of the hardest things about being a parent is trying to figure out what to do when your child is sick. How sick are they? Is it just a cold or is it more serious? Should you call the doctor or wait another day? Should they stay home from school or child care?

When deciding whether to keep your sick child home from school or child care, remember that germs spread very easily in school and child care settings. Children are constantly touching each other, coughing or sneezing near each other, trading toys or other items, and are overall more likely to spread or catch an illness than adults are. When you also consider that children are still developing good sanitary habits covering coughs and sneezes, using tissues instead of hands for runny noses, etc, it’s easy to see why keeping a sick child home may be the better choice.

Most schools and child care programs have policies that state when a sick child should be kept home, so make sure you’re familiar with your program’s policies. If in doubt, here are some common-sense reasons to keep a child home:

  • Unusual spots, rashes or bruises unrelated to an injury
  • Extremely sore throat with difficulty swallowing
  • Impetigo or infected skin patches
  • Unusually dark (tea-colored) urine
  • Fever
  • Headache and stiff neck
  • Vomiting – for any reason
  • Diarrhea – for any reason
  • Crankiness, general discomfort, seems unwell, cries more than usual
  • Ear ache
  • Child does not feel well enough to participate in child care program’s activities

Consider the other children at school or child care, and their families. Bringing a sick child to school or child care may cause other children to become ill, and that illness may spread to their family members. If all parents keep their sick children at home everyone will stay healthier, which will result in fewer lost work days and a healthier environment for everyone.

Amy Sue


Image credit: www.sxc.hu/profile/Mrinkk


  1. This is always a tough call! I prefer to be overcautious and keep mine home. I really don’t know how most families handle this though! I’m a stay at mom, but what about families where both parents work? What about single parent families? By the time your kids have a couple colds and the stomach flu all your vacation/sick days are gone. I wonder how may moms lose their jobs over things like this?

    • Joquena,

      You’re so right! As a child care provider I prefer that sick children stay home – not only to keep the other children healthy, but also because the sick one often doesn’t feel well enough to be a child care – but I also understand the difficult situation parents are in. It’s a tough situation on all sides.

      Thanks for commenting!
      ~Amy Sue

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