What To Do When Your Child Gets Sick At School

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When a child gets sick at school, it certainly can make life interesting–and stressful.  In my life at least, it seems that my children only get sick on the days when I have major deadlines looming!  Today was another one of those days. 

When you have kids and you have to be at work, it’s important to know the “rules” first of all.  For example, how does your child’s school define illness?  Some schools won’t allow children to attend if they have a cough or a fever over a certain temperature.  Other schools require that a child stay home until he or she is 24 hours free of symptoms.  Each day care also has different rules about illnesses.  I know one daycare which sends children home when their fevers reach 101 degrees.  If it’s under that, they will call the parents at work, but they don’t require that a parent picks up the child.

Also, ask how long you have to pick up your child once you get the call.  A friend of mine works over an hour away from her home where her children go to school.  This means that the before and after school care is also over an hour away.  She didn’t think much about the realities of that situation until she got a call one day, during rush hour.  Her child was sick and she needed to pick him up.  After that the staff member mentioned that their day care had a 1/2 hour rule. In other words, she had to pick the child up within a half of an hour or face increased charges.  My friend was shocked because she’d never thought to ask such a question! 

How do you personally feel about the illness?  For example, I tend to watch my child for signs of illness.  Even if they are running a low grade fever which would be acceptable to a daycare or the school, I usually make them stay home.  I’ve found it’s easier to let them stay home than to re-arrange my schedule to go pick them up at school.  I am lucky enough to have an option to telecommute to work however.  I know many parents who don’t have this option.

It’s important to create a “plan B”.  In other words, figure out how you will handle and illness before it happens.  Check with neighbors or relatives to see who would be able to pick up your child from school if they get ill.  If your spouse or significant other works close to the school, ask if he or she would be able to take time off of work.  I know of couples who assign one parent as the emergency contact because that person’s boss is more understanding.  I also know of parents who take turns picking up sick children.  Do whatever will work for your specific situation. It’s also helpful to talk with co-workers to see how they handle their children’s illnesses.  Create a detailed plan and then present it to your boss.

It would be nice if children didn’t get sick at school, but it does happen.  Be prepared for the inevitable, and this should make things go more smoothly.


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