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When is my child too sick to go to daycare?

There you are sitting in a meeting and the phone number to your child’s daycare appears across your phone. Your first thought when you see this is, “Oh my goodness is my child ok?” And although emergencies can occur, hopefully it is just the daycare staff simply calling to tell you that your child is sick. Your second thought... “I hope my child didn’t throw up at daycare, I still have a half day of work I need to get through!”

All About Kids has been a child care operator for over 10 years, and we’ve found many parents while visiting the centres, especially first time parents, come prepared with a list of questions. The most common question asked by parents is “When is my child too sick to come to daycare?”

Here’s what we say:

While most parents are shocked to hear “Yes, your child can attend daycare if he or she is sick”, the following are some things to consider:

  1. Don't feel bad about sending your child to daycare with a minor cold. A runny nose should not deter you from sending your child to daycare. A cough however should be checked out by your doctor in order to rule out any other possible respiratory tract infections.
  2. Fevers are never for good reason. Yes, they say when you have a fever it means the body is fighting infection and this is good, but what's not good is that it makes a child feel awful.

Here’s what we do:

We will call parents and send a child home if he/she:

  1. Has 2 or more watery bowel movements in an hour
  2. Vomits
  3. Has a fever or 100° F or higher
  4. Has an undiagnosed skin rash
  5. Has any condition such as a cough that appears to be worsening through the day

Our staff will even call parents to give them the heads up if they noticed any signs that their child may be getting sick (for example, if an infant is pulling on their ear throughout the day). This gives parents the opportunity to plan their evening ahead of time and not at pick up or 6pm when it is too late. Parents always appreciate this as it gives them an opportunity to call the doctor and try to schedule an appointment.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Keep your child home if they have any of the above mentioned conditions, or they have not been symptom free from any illness for 24 hours. During an outbreak however, this time period increases to 48 hours.
  2. If you take your child to the doctor, whether your child was sent home from daycare or over the weekend, ask for a note from your doctor indicating what your child has been diagnosed with, and whether or not he or she is contagious. This will save you a lot of time, and missed work if you have to take off work again to obtain or provide this information.
  3. If your child requires an over the counter medication such as Benadryl or Tylenol, have your doctor write a note that indicates the doctor’s name, dates the medicine should be administered, the name of the medicine, the dose, and reason for medicine. The expiry date must also be visible on the medication.
  4. Check on your child if you feel like he or she may be coming down with something or if they have just returned to daycare after a few days at home. Take advantage of web cameras at your child’s centre, and call when you want an update on how your child is feeling.

So when can my child return to daycare?

Most centres have a 24 hour policy. If the child is symptom free for 24 hours, or has been on medication for 24 hours, and they feel better, then they can return. Remember that some centres increase this time period to 48 hours during an outbreak in order to prevent further spread of an illness.

Final words of Wisdom

It’s best to plan your day in advance, especially when you know your child is feeling under the weather. You know your child best. If you feel he or she is not themselves, chances are they’re not, and he or she may need more rest before attending or returning to daycare.

Familiarize yourself with your daycare’s sick policy and medication policy. Most daycares will administer prescription medication to your child, as long as it is prescribed by a doctor and all consent forms are completed by the parent. It is important to keep in mind that your child’s caregiver doesn’t want to send your child home unless he or she feels it is necessary, or there are evident signs that your child is sick. Early childhood professionals are there to keep all the children safe and comfortable.

Finally, regardless of how sick your child may be, if he or she is not well enough to participate in the daily program, and that means outdoor play too, then it’s best to keep them home. After all, a sick child wants mommy or daddy the most when he or she is not feeling well.

Ellen Pazuki, RECE, OCT
Regional Manager, All About Kids
Care Coordinator, Care Connect Network

If you have a parent concern that you would like more information please email me at epazuki@allaboutkids.ca and for more information on this topic, or on family and child health, visit your local health department’s website.

Disclaimer: All material is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their child’s health and well-being. The information and opinions expressed here are believed to be accurate, based on the best judgement available to the author, and readers who fail to consult with appropriate health authorities assume the risk of any injuries. In addition, the information and opinions expressed here reflect the views and policies of All About Kids Inc. All About Kids acknowledges occasional differences in opinion and welcomes the exchange of different viewpoints.


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