Tell-tale signs that your child is too sick for day care

We all know how miserable we feel as we struggle through a work day when we are sick, and should be resting at home. Now, imagine how much more difficult it is for a small child, or infant, to try and do the same thing!

Sick children should not be dropped off at their day care centers on days they are too sick to be there. Unfortunately, many parents have a hard time trying to figure out what, exactly, constitutes being “too sick for day care”.

Many centers provide parents with a list of symptoms that indicate when a child is too sick to come to day care that day. For those of you whose day care centers did not provide you with a handy list, the following check-list of symptoms may be just what you need:

Body temperature of 100 (F) or higher.

Normal human body temperature is 98.8 (F). A higher body temperatures means your child is running a fever. A fever could indicate anything from a cold, to an infection, all of which are going to be contagious to everyone who interacts with your child that day.

A high fever can quickly become dangerous in an infant or very young child, much faster than it would in adults. Few day care workers will have the proper nursing experience to recognize precisely when your child will need to be rushed to the hospital due to excessively high fever.

If your child feels especially warm, check his or her temperature. If it turns out your child has a fever, don’t take the risk. Keep your child home from day care that day.

Some parents will choose to dodge this rule, and dose their child (or infant) with aspirin moments before dropping them off at day care. This is a bad plan. Realize that as soon as the aspirin wears off, your child’s fever will return, he or she will be miserable, and you will be receiving a call from the day care center to come and pick up your child anyway.


If your child has vomited in the morning, or any time last night starting with after dinner, then your child is too sick for day care today. Flu bugs tend to last twenty four hours, and sometimes last more.

The flu is something else that is contagious to anyone who encounters the child with the flu, especially if the child vomits in the classroom. Let your child stay home until they get through twenty four hours without throwing up.

Some parents will bring their small child into day care if the child vomited last night, but “seems fine” this morning. Realize that small children simply cannot wait to tell their day care teachers “I threw up last night”. Parents who attempt to “sneak” a child who has the flu into day care are not fooling anyone, and will be receiving a call from the day care center telling them to come right back and take home their sick child.

Various contagious diseases or infections

Your child is too sick for day care if he or she has any of the following maladies: measles, chicken pox, hands foot and mouth disease, rubella, conjunctivitis or “pink eye”, sinus infection, ear infection, head lice, or thrush. Yes, all are infectious.

No, day care teachers are not happy to catch these diseases from your sick child. No, other parents are not happy to have your child share these germs with their healthy kids.

Yes, I have seen children with each and every one of these forms of illnesses arrive at day care centers. Bear in mind that this is not, by any means, a complete list of diseases that mean your child is too sick for day care. It is more of a guideline.


In most day care centers, children (or infants) who experience three or more episodes of diarrhea while at day care get sent home for the day. If your child is not yet potty trained, it will soon become obvious to their day care teachers that he or she is too sick for day care today.

Older children who have diarrhea often have “accidents” (and need a change of clothing). This is not a comfortable situation for your child to experience in front of his or her peers.

Many day care centers that send home a child that is experiencing diarrhea will also require the child to stay home from day care the next day, or until they can get through an entire day without having more diarrhea. This is because diarrhea indicates illness. It could be the flu, it could be something worse, and most day care centers have no way to determine exactly why your child is sick.

The reason your child is in day care in the first place is because you have to be at work, but most employers are less than overjoyed to hear that you need to leave work early, or cannot come in today, because you need to stay home with a sick child.

Children who are too sick to come to day care are suffering. Don’t make your child even more miserable by insisting on dropping him or her off at day care when they are too sick for day care that day.