When is my toddler too sick for daycare?

What was that sound? Was it a cough? A sneeze? A sniffle? Does their forehead feel a little warm? There are some illnesses that are clear-cut – Baby needs to stay at home, in their own bed, and under your watchful eye. Others, though, are harder to pin down – is Baby sick, or just a little under the weather? This can be especially hard for parents whose work situations aren’t ideal for calling out to take care of a sick child, and who don’t have family or backup childcare in the area.

One factor that makes this harder is that even more universal guidelines, like the ones laid out by the American Academy of Pediatrics, can conflict with the individual standards set out by different childcare facilities. These more general guidelines are fairly commonly referred to by childcare centers across the country, but it’s always a good idea to check them against the standards of your child’s daycare center to make sure you’re on the same page.

Illnesses for Baby to power through

First symptoms that don’t mean a child needs to stay home from daycare. The common cold is an illness that hits almost every child many, many different times.

  • Common cold: Common symptoms are typically a runny nose that includes any color discharge, sneezing, coughing, tiredness, and a sore throat.
  • Moderate fever: A fever that is below 101 degrees Fahrenheit is also not grounds for keeping a child home, and may also be a symptom of a cold.
  • Pink eye: This condition used to be considered a reason for a child to stay home from daycare, but since it can be treated with antibiotics, it’s no longer a reason a toddler needs to stay home, though the facility may ask for proof that your child is being treated for pink eye before they can come back.
  • Lice: Lice is another condition that, as long as it’s being treated, isn’t a reason to keep a toddler home from preschool.

Other conditions a toddler may have and still attend daycare include rash without fever, ringworm, scabies, and thrush. While seeing your toddler suffer through any of these illnesses is no fun, toddlers dealing with them are still considered healthy and non-contagious enough to leave home and spend a few hours with their peers. It may still be helpful to check in with both their pediatrician and the staff at the center before dropping them off, but it’s generally not a problem.

Illnesses Baby needs to recover from at home

So when do you call it and make other arrangements for Baby to stay home and not attend daycare? There are three standard measurements that can help you make this choice. First, if they have a fever that is over 101 degrees. This fact alone is enough for most centers to ask you to please keep them home. Second, if their condition is too distracting and will hinder their participation is most activities. Will they be miserable all day trying to keep up with the other kids, play and learn? Keep them home or somewhere else that’s comfortable. Lastly, diarrhea is grounds for keeping your toddler home from daycare as well. This is especially true for toddlers in diapers as this can be very hard for staff to attend to and is often a sign of the body in distress.

Again, if you’re not sure which kind of situation Baby is in, it’s always helpful to check in with their doctor and teachers. The open line of communication will ensure you make the right call for everyone involved.

  • Diane E. Pappas. “Patient education: The common cold in children.” UpToDate. Wolters Kwuler, March 22 2017. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/the-common-cold-in-children-beyond-the-basics. Retrieved May 9 2017.
  • “Chapter 3: Health Promotion and Protection.” Caring for Our Children. National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education, April 16 2015. http://cfoc.nrckids.org/StandardView/ Retrieved May 9 2017.
  • “Inclusion and Exclusion Guidelines for Child Care.” Healthy Child Care America. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildcare.org/inclusionexclusion.html. Retrieved May 9 2017.

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