When to keep a sick child home from school

By Margaret Barry
Department of Defense Education Activity

There are three reasons to keep sick children at home:

1. When your child has a contagious or communicable disease.

2. When your child is exhibiting any of the signs or symptoms listed below or has an illness for which temporary exclusion is recommended for the health and safety of your child as well as other children.

3. When your child does not feel well enough to comfortably participate in their normal school activities.


Children with the following symptoms or illness should be kept home from school:

Fever: A temperature of 100° Fahrenheit or greater demonstrates the need to exclude the student from the school setting. Note: A fever is considered present at 100.4° Fahrenheit.

Yes, a child should stay home when a fever is accompanied by behavior changes or other symptoms of illness, i.e.: rash, sore throat, stomach ache/vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, head ache, ear ache. The student should be fever free (oral temperature below 99o F) without the use of fever-reducing medicines, for a complete school day (24 hours) before returning to school.

Flu Symptoms: Fever over 100° Fahrenheit or greater with cough and/or sore throat. Other flu symptoms can include fatigue, body aches, vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Yes, a child should stay home for at least 24 hours after there is no longer a fever, without the use of fever-reducing medicines.

Coughing: Severe uncontrolled coughing or wheezing, rapid or difficult breathing; coughing lasting longer than 5-7 days.

Yes, a child should stay home, because medical attention is necessary.

Mild respiratory or cold symptoms: Stuffy nose with clear drainage, sneezing, mild cough; no temperature elevation.

No. The child may attend school if able to participate in school activities.

Vomiting: Two or more episodes of vomiting in the past 24 hours.

Yes, a child should stay home until vomiting resolves (no further vomiting for 24 hours). Observe for other signs of illness and for dehydration.

Diarrhea: Frequent, loose or watery stools compared to child’s normal pattern; not caused by diet or medication.

Yes, a child should stay home if the child looks or acts ill; if the child has diarrhea with temperature elevation of 100° Fahrenheit or greater; if child has diarrhea and vomiting.

Rash with fever: A body rash without fever or behavior changes usually does not require exclusion from school; seek medical advice.

Yes, keep the child home and seek medical advice. Any rash that spreads quickly, has open, weeping wounds and/or is not healing should be evaluated.

Conjunctivitis: Pink/reddish color to white part of the eye and thick discharge may be yellow or greenish in color.

Yes, a child should stay home until discharge and signs of infection have cleared or completion of 24-hour treatment with ophthalmic solution prescribed by a health care provider.

Head lice or scabies:

No. As long as treatment has been initiated, the child may go to school. Note: Strict adherence to product directions is essential for successful eradication of parasites.

Impetigo (to include: streptococci, staphylococcus, MRSA infections): Blister like lesions which develop into pustules. May “weep” and crust.

Yes, the child should stay home for 24 hours after medical treatment has been initiated. Note: Lesions must be covered for school attendance.


No. As long as treatment has been initiated, the child may attend school. Note: Lesions must be covered for school attendance.

Vaccine Preventable Diseases Measles, Mumps, Rubella, (German Measles), Chicken pox, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Influenza:

Yes, the child should stay home until a medical care provider has determined the child is not infectious.

This information is based upon guidelines from American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control, Clinical Guidelines for School Nurses (2007) and DoDEA DSM 2942.1, March 2004. 

Please contact your school nurse should you have any questions or wish to discuss your child’s medical condition.