Oct 8, 2020, 8:54:16 AM CDT Oct 8, 2020, 9:55:16 AM CDT

When to keep children home sick from school or daycare

Guidance for parents during COVID-19

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In the past, your child could go to school, even if their nose was stuffed or runny. But as we continue to live in a world with COVID-19, you might be wondering – is it really a cold? Is it safe for my child to go to school? What if they test positive for COVID-19?

Jeffrey Kahn, M.D., Director of Infectious Disease at Children's Health℠ and professor at UT Southwestern, shares his advice for when to keep your child at home from school or daycare this year.

Watch for certain symptoms

Not all children will show symptoms of COVID-19, even though they can still spread the virus. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should watch out for symptoms such as:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

While these symptoms don't automatically mean your child has COVID-19, they may have another condition – like the flu or strep throat – that could spread to their classmates. It is best to keep them home if they show any of these symptoms.

If your child tests negative for COVID-19, they will be able to return to school when they feel better. So, when they no longer have a fever for at least 24 hours without using fever medications, you can safely send them back to school.

Don't push your child to go back to school if they are still feeling unwell. Conditions like the flu can keep them feeling too lethargic for school, even if they don't have a fever.

Keep children home if they have been around someone with COVID-19

If your child was around someone who tested positive for COVID-19, they should quarantine at home for 14 days, whether they have symptoms or not. You don't need to get them tested for COVID-19 if they don't show signs. However, if they start showing any of the symptoms listed above, you may want to take them for a COVID-19 test.

Testing for COVID-19 often involves taking a swab of the back of the nasal passages and sending the sample to a lab for testing.

See more information about COVID-19 community testing locations in North Texas.

Keep kids home if they test positive for COVID-19

If your child tests positive for COVID-19, it is vital that you keep them isolated at home for 10 days after they test positive, even if they don't show symptoms. After this time is over, if they have no symptoms, they can return to school.

This school year will require a lot of flexibility and patience from teachers, parents and children. As the number of cases changes or children become sick at school, rules for their safety may change.

"I think we just have to be ready to be very nimble as we approach this school season," Dr. Kahn says. "We're entering an unknown phase."

Follow your school and the CDC's latest guidance about keeping your child safe. When in doubt, Dr. Kahn recommends you call your child's pediatrician for more help on whether to send your child to school or daycare.

Tips to keep your child healthy at school and daycare

Proper hand hygiene is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. Teach your child to wash their hands frequently, especially before eating and after using the bathroom or blowing their nose. It's also important to wash hands after touching desks, doorknobs and handrails.

Children should continue to practice social distancing, even when they return to school or other activities. They should also wear a face mask when they are in public, based on advice from the CDC.

As part of social distancing, you should also remind your children that they shouldn't share items like masks, pencils, toys, food or drinks.

Learn more

Children's Health is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family during this time. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID-19 hub.

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