Should My Slightly Sick Child Stay Home? The Rules Often Conflict

Cold and flu season means plenty of parents are trying to figure out whether their kid is too sick to go to child care or school.

It's not always an easy call. Day care centers for younger children often have exclusion policies laying out exactly which symptoms should keep kids at home — more on those in a minute. But rules in elementary school and beyond are often looser and less definitive, says Gary Freed, a pediatrician and co-director of the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.

The poll's national survey of 1,442 parents of kids ages 6 to 18 released Monday found that the top factors in a decision to keep a child home are concerns that the illness will get worse or spread to classmates at school. Parents of older kids were also more likely to worry than parents of younger children about students missing tests or class time when making the stay-home-or-go-to-school decision. Interestingly, only 11 percent said that not wanting to miss work themselves was a "very important" factor in deciding whether a kid should stay home.

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