We are in Safe Start Phase 2. Read our press release.

Questions about COVID-19? Visit our COVID-19 pages.

We suspended most in-person services. Read our blog post.

Kroger drive-thru testing at Tacoma Dome—June 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 29-30, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. See if you qualify.

Your Reliable Source

Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

A blog by your local public health experts

Return to Blog

When is your child too sick for school?

Kate Cranfield
by Kate Cranfield01/08/2020 2:46 p.m.
Updated: 01/08/2020

Although winter brings many exciting things, it seems like cold and flu viruses always sneak in along with them. Flu activity is increasing in Pierce County. Before winter break, dozens of schools reported to us that they had 10% or more students out sick with fever and cough.

But how do you know when your child is too sick for school?

A young girl lays on her back reading a book in a doctor's officeCheck out this infographic (in English and Spanish). You should also check your school’s or childcare center’s policies. Generally, you should keep your child home if they:

  • Are too sick to participate in normal activities.
  • Need a higher level of monitoring and care than school can provide.
  • Could spread harmful symptoms to others.

More specifically, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children stay home when they have:

  • Fever greater than 100.4°F with other symptoms, like sore throat, rash, earache or behavior change.
  • Strep throat. Keep your child home until they are fever-free and have taken antibiotics for at least 24 hours. 
  • Vomiting. Keep your child home until they haven’t vomited for at least 24 hours.
  • Diarrhea. Keep your child home if they have diarrhea 2 times more than usual in a day.

Check out this fact sheet (in English and Spanish) that explains how long your child should stay home with certain illnesses. Remember—no set of recommendations can cover all situations. When in doubt, talk to your healthcare provider.

Not all illnesses are preventable, but you can take steps to keep your child healthy.

  • Make sure your child is up to date on all recommended vaccines. This includes a yearly flu shot—the best protection against this dangerous respiratory virus.
  • Make sure your child washes their hands well—especially after using the bathroom, coughing, sneezing, playing outside and before eating.
  • And of course, keep your child home when they’re too sick for school.
Kate Cranfield

by Kate Cranfield

Kate is a public health nurse who prevents and contains the spread of diseases in our communities.


We invite your comments but will delete those with profanity, personal attacks, derogatory statements, ads or promotional material. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department does not provide personal medical advice; please contact your health care provider.