Ailing or Acting – Should Your Child Stay Home From School?

stay home from school

How does a parent decide if their child should stay home from school? Parents must wade through a litany of childhood symptoms – real and sometimes feigned. And their decision often has consequences for both them and their child: missed work, doctor bills, parental guilt, and unnoticed warnings of serious illness.

Some parents choose a default, spectrum-end strategy and go with that. Either they make a child go to school unless they’re gushing at both ends, or they keep them home for any minor claim of discomfort. This article provides some nuance to guide your decision of when your child should stay home from school.

Acronym Guideline For Obvious Symptoms

The word “fester” is a general decision-making guide.

F is for fever. Experts recommend keeping your child home for a temperature that exceeds 100.4 F.

E is for eyes. Greenish goop in the corner of your child’s eyes is an indication of highly contagious pinkeye (conjunctivitis.) They need to see a doctor for a prescription remedy. If you send your child to school, they’ll send him right back home.

S is for stomach. If your child has vomited more than twice in the previous 24 hours, they likely have a bug or food poisoning and are truly sick. Severe abdominal pain can also indicate appendicitis or bowel obstruction and necessitate immediate medical attention.

T is for throat. A mild sore throat and cough may just be irritation from nasal drainage. But painful swallowing with enlarged tonsils and lymph nodes could be a strep infection. Keep your child home.

E is for ears. Painful inner ears accompanied by a fever indicate infection. Repeated bouts may result in permanent hearing loss which is why you should seek medical attention for your child instead of sending them to school.

R is for rash. Not every rash is worthy of a missed school day. Heat, allergens, and bug bites may cause mild rashes. But some rashes are more serious – especially if your child is not vaccinated against measles and chicken pox. Impetigo, fifth disease, and hand/foot/mouth disease are common contagious rashes that can resolve themselves but generally get a child sent home from school.

Exceptions To The Guideline

Of course, there are other reasons to keep your child home that don’t fall neatly into this generalized guide. Lice and asthma attacks are obvious examples. But this FESTER acronym is a place to begin. As always, if you have a doubt or question, consult your doctor.

Sometimes the decision, if your child should stay home from school, is made for you. Daycare centers and schools usually have their own policies regarding illnesses and attendance. These may also vary from the FESTER acronym.

And then, there are times when any guideline goes out the window. Your child doesn’t have any obvious symptoms and your parental suspicion radar is peaking.

Parent The Acting Child

I knew a young girl who claimed to have a stomach ache every math test morning. Me. But my mother always administered a tablespoon of Pepto-Bismol and sent me to school. This parental consistency eventually “cured” my stomach problem. Until I developed an eye problem.

I noticed a classmate wore glasses and it inspired me to work a new angle. I squinted at the board and my papers, pretending I couldn’t see them clearly. That got me some grace from my 2nd grade teacher – until my mother took me to the eye doctor.

The doctor pronounced my vision 20/20. And for my deceit, my father applied the board of education to my seat of learning. So I went to school, took my math tests, and did predictably poorly in that subject. For the rest of my life.

I’m not saying a sound spanking wasn’t appropriate for my lies and the money it cost my parents. The takeaway from this experience is that a parent shouldn’t consider their job done just because discipline is administered. You may be addressing the symptom and neglecting the root.A parent shouldn’t consider their job done just because discipline is administered. Click To Tweet

Don’t stop parenting prematurely. Find out why your child is faking an illness. Are they fearful of poor performance or avoiding social conflict at school? Maybe they simply don’t want to be separated from their electronic devices – a growing problem in schools. Don’t stop digging until you’ve identified the root cause. Then address it with compassion, resolve, and solutions specific to the issue.

Teach your child how to face and settle their problems instead of avoiding them. By doing so, you also instill confidence and independence. But if you enable them with ready excuses, you’ll set a life pattern for their dodging, blame-shifting, and/or manipulation.

And I have to own that. Still dodge the numbers. Had to make sure I married a mathematically gifted man.

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