Sick Kids: When to Stay Home & When to Seek Medical Care

Marie Wimett, Family Practice NP - Clinic Medical Director: Carbon Health Urgent Care, San Rafael
August 22, 2023
7 Mins

As a parent or caregiver, your most important responsibility is ensuring your child’s well-being and health. Still, it can be challenging to determine whether your child should stay home from school or daycare due to illness – especially since we all know how hard it can be to find last minute care! Equally crucial is knowing when it's time to seek medical care. 

In this blog post, we'll share recommendations for deciding when to keep your child home and when to seek professional medical attention. However, when in doubt, we recommend you always consult a healthcare professional for advice tailored to your child's specific situation.

Here is a list of symptoms that indicate your child should stay home:

1. Fever over 100°F: Many schools have guidelines that require children to be fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medication before returning. 

2. Nausea and vomiting: Children should be able to keep food and liquid down for at least 48 hours before returning to school. 

3. Diarrhea: Children with diarrhea should be symptom-free for at least 48 hours before returning to school.

4. Respiratory symptoms: If your child has had a rough night due to persistent coughing or difficulty breathing, it's wise to keep them home to rest and recover.

5. Sore throat with other symptoms: Children with sore throat accompanied by fever, headache, or chills should stay home and rest.

6. Flu-like symptoms: Symptoms such as body aches and chills are common signs of the flu. It's advisable to keep your child home until these symptoms subside.

7. Red eyes with other symptoms: If your child has red eyes along with fever, eye drainage, mucus, crust, swollen eyelids, or a sensation of "sand in the eyes," they may have conjunctivitis. 

Determining whether your child should stay home to recover or seek medical attention hinges on the type of symptoms and their severity. A slight fever or common cold can often be managed effectively at home with rest. However, ongoing high fevers, intense pain, persistent vomiting, or diarrhea and worsening symptoms may necessitate a visit to a healthcare professional. 

Here’s when we recommend you seek medical care: 

1. Persistent fever: If your child's fever persists for more than 24 hours (for children under 2) or three days (for children 2 and older), or if the fever doesn't respond to medication, consult a provider.

2. High fever: A fever exceeding 104°F in a child of any age should prompt a medical evaluation.

3. Prolonged vomiting/diarrhea: If vomiting or diarrhea lasts for more than 24 hours, your child may become dehydrated and needs to be checked by a professional. 

4. Persistent cold/cough: If your child's cold or cough persists beyond six or seven days, or worsens with the development of a fever, you should consult a healthcare professional.

5. Ear pain/drainage: Ear pain with a fever, or drainage leaking from the ear, could indicate an ear infection. Medical assessment is recommended.

6. Sharp abdominal pains: Sharp and persistent stomach or abdominal pains require medical attention to rule out any serious underlying issues.

7. Severe sore throat: If your child's sore throat is severe and accompanied by other symptoms, a doctor's evaluation is necessary.

8. Blood in urine/diarrhea: Any presence of blood in urine or diarrhea should not be ignored and requires immediate medical care.

9. Dehydration: Seek medical care if your child has not urinated or had a wet diaper in 8 hours, or if they won't take anything to drink for more than a few hours .Also, if your child is under 1 year old and is drinking only oral rehydration solution (no breast milk or formula) for 24 hours seek medical care.

Carbon Health Pediatric Urgent Care

Carbon Health offers same-day pediatric care for common illnesses, injuries and infections. Families can schedule an in-clinic or virtual appointment, or walk-in to any of our clinics. We also offer 15-minute testing for strep, flu, RSV, COVID-19, and more–and provide clear after-visit summaries you can share with your pediatrician. 

Keeping your child home from school or daycare and knowing when to seek medical care are important in helping your child get better faster and limiting the spread of illness. We hope these guidelines can support you in navigating these decisions with confidence.

Marie Wimett, Family Practice NP - Clinic Medical Director: Carbon Health Urgent Care, San Rafael

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