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    Infectious Diseases A–Z: When to keep your sick child home from school

a young Asian teenage girl looking sick with cold or fever and mother holding her face

Many parents and caregivers may be faced with the difficult task of deciding when to keep their children out of day care or school when they are not feeling well.

"From a parent's perspective, the important things to know are how the child is doing overall," says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic. "Are they eating? Are they drinking? If they're not drinking, it's probably not a good idea to send them off to school."

Watch: Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse talks about keeping a sick child home.

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Dehydration in young children is especially dangerous. "One of the biggest risks is dehydration, especially in young kids. Keeping them home so you can keep a close eye on their intake and encourage them to drink is important if they're not feeling well," says Dr. Rajapakse. "If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea, start offering fluids frequently at the first signs of illness. Soup, Popsicles and oral rehydration solutions are good options."

"Children who have a fever usually don't feel well enough to go school and generally should be kept home," says Dr. Rajapakse. "It's also important in terms of transmission of infection. When you have a fever, oftentimes that's when you're at the highest risk of transmitting whatever infection you might have. Staying at home in those situations is important, as well."

Dr. Rajapakse says keeping your child home when he or she are at the highest risks of transmitting a virus to others can help break the chain of transmission. And it's a good idea for adults who are sick or think they have the flu to stay home to avoid infecting others around them.

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