Health Check: School sick days

Dr. Patricia Flanagan says there are important clues to help you know when your child is sick enough to keep him or her home from school.

It's in the classroom where students learn. But what if they're not feeling well?

"School attendance is critical to learning as a development and to the extent that we can keep kids in school I think we should but," said Dr. Patricia Flanagan of Hasbro Children's Hospital.

But when is your child sick enough to stay home from school?

"Certainly a fever over 101, that child should stay home. A child who is actively vomiting or having diarrhea should stay home. I think those are children you don't want in school," Flanagan said.

Children can't learn when they're sick, and that sickness can be spread rather quickly and efficiently in a classroom setting.

Then there's the gray zone.

"The gray zone is always with the head cold," Flanagan said.

"I wouldn't want a child to stay home every time they have a little sniffle and I think that's where some judgment comes in. If it's a sniffle without a fever I would err on the side of sending them to school most likely and certainly a cough or shortness of breath or wheezing in an asthmatic child you want to treat a little differently. Keep them home and watch them a little more closely."

Then there are those vague complaints children sometimes have.

"You know your child best and if it's just a little tummy ache or a little sniffle, I think they should go to school," Flanagan said.

If your child continues to have vague symptoms such as a tummy ache, it could be anxiety.

"The anxiety and the stomach aches are real. Children who are anxious can have somatic complaints, stomach or headaches, and that's something to really explore with your child with your child's pediatrician if it gets to the point where you're really concerned that they've either missed too much school or they're uncomfortable in school," Flanagan said.

Flanagan said a child who misses more than 10 days of school should be considered a red flag and the reasons explored.