Sent Home from School for the Common Cold?

Updated on February 15, 2014
F.B. asks from Kew Gardens, NY
27 answers

Mamas & Papas-

Our kid has a cold. A bit of a cough, and a runny nose, but isn't bogged down, sluggish, or feverish. His pre-school called us today and asked us to collect him because he was sick. I get to the school and he is skipping and laughing along with the others. I asked the head teacher what went wrong, did he spike a fever, did he vomit, his he have boughts of the runs? She said, no, he's got a runny nose, and that alone is contagious.

Thinking it was something major, we left work, and had already booked a same day sick so we ran him to the doctor. The doctor said, yup he's got a cold. No, he's not contagious, and I'm not sure why this warranted his being sent home.

Our daycare said send him in with a cough or sniffles. what kid doesn't have a cough or sniffles. Just keep him home for fever, vomiting or diarrheah. It seems that the pre-school has a different standard.

What governs in your neck of the woods? And putting aside the school requirements, what is your own measure for whether a kid should stay home sick or not.

F. B.

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answers from Chicago on

I liked the highlighted box that says:

Exclusion of a child due to the common cold is not beneficial since the virus is usually contagious long before the onset if symptoms.

Also, the color of mucus does not indicate if the child is contagious, that's a myth that has been proven to be false.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It's winter. There will be coughs and colds and sniffles well into spring. If they send kids home for a bit of a runny nose, then they might as well shut down October to April. That's just silly. Yes, colds are contagious, but everyone is sick in winter. If DD is truly miserable, I'd keep her home til she wasn't sounding like a seal. Or til she didn't have a fever. But otherwise that's what the hand sanitizer and tissues I sent in earlier this year are for.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Is it possible that the recent flu outbreak has them a bit overly cautious? If the sniffles kept kids home, we'd be in big trouble come spring/allergy season! Generally speaking, I look for the "markers" to keep my kids home..fever, vomit, diarrhea, etc. There are some days where they complain and I shove some tylenol in them and send them on their way. I just kind of go with my gut. But there are rogue days where they have no symptoms, but they are so out of sorts, that I keep them home to rest.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Hartford on

Eh... I can see the preschool's side of it. A gooey, runny nose that the child isn't using a tissue for and isn't on cold medicine for is extremely unsanitary in a preschool. If another parent sees it, and then your child smears it all over their child and their child does get sick... well... ew.

I've never heard of a pediatrician saying that runny snot from a cold isn't contagious. It's packed full of germs, of course it is. It's allergies that you don't have to worry about.

15 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I'm sorry, but I find it difficult (if not impossible) to believe that you had a physician tell you that he had a cold, and that cold was NOT contagious.
All colds are contagious! You might look for a new pediatrician?

That said, its preschool, not daycare. Those teachers have 12-15 other kids to teach and direct, and if they were having to wipe snot off your kids face every ten minutes, its interfering with everyone else's day. You can't use preschool for daycare, and they let you know that today. I agree with their philosophy that a runny, snotty nose is grounds for a kiddo to stay home. Add cough on top of it, and he definitely should not have been sent. JMHO.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

I guess I did keep my kids home from school when they had a cold.

Seems like common courtesy. Especially if they're too young to manage their own snotty noses.


12 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Your doctor actually said colds are not contagious? Time to find a new doctor:)

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I really cannot believe, that your Pediatrician said that he is not contagious.
He is sick.
He has coughing and runny nose.
He is contagious.

The Preschool, probably does not want him there because then often times, other kids and them, get sick too, with who knows what.
Even in an office, co-workers being "sick" like that, is no fun for the others and they WISH they would just stay home.

The Preschool is probably just being cautious.

Just as a side note: so my son's friend, wanted him to come over to his house to play. And then the friend says "My Mommy is sick, she's all HOT...." So then, I ASK the Mom "Are you sick?" (and she sounded awful and looked awful when I spoke to her). And she says "yeah but I'm fine, the boys can play here..." So I say "what are your symptoms?" And she goes "Oh nothing really, just runny nose (which was obvious), sore throat, congested...." And so I say "Well sorry nothing personal but you're sick, there is a contagious period and incubation period and I don't want my son at your house and he gets sick too, and misses school next week...'
So then she says "oh... yeah I guess I might be contagious..." meanwhile, she is having mucus fluids runny nose etc. and sounds all stuffed up.
At least she was not offended.
And I told my son, you are not going there when the Mom is sick, and then who knows who else gets sick.
They thought, it was no big deal she is sick and inviting other kids over to play.
But it was to me.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

There might be a larger context here. Maybe colds and worse are rampant in the preschool right now so they are being extremely cautious and sending kids home when there is any visible outward sign of anything (like goo on their faces!). The reality might be that though they are well aware that kids have sniffles a lot, right now they are trying to break the chain of infection by separating any kid with even the sniffles. I would give them a break on this one and maybe ask if that's what's going on. I would not blame them for doing this if there is a larger issue and they have had lots of kids out, or kids who are getting colds that develop into worse infections (sinus, bronchitis, etc.).

And like others -- I question your doctor. I would want to know: Isn't that runny stuff coming out of kids' noses carrying the cold virus?

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

This reminds me of the time the school nurse asked me to collect my daughter for a 99.2 temperature and no other symptoms. My pediatrician told me that 100.7 is when you treat a fever so I thought she was kidding. She repeated '99.2' as if I didn't hear her. So I wasn't given an option either.

On a side note, one time I went to help in preschool and was a little put off by all of the sniffly, running noses. I think if I was the preschool teacher I wouldn't be able to resist mixing a little Benadryl in with the juice to dry up those noses. And THAT is why I am not a teacher ;-)

Seriously give him a little antihistamine to help dry up the congestion if he otherwise isn't worse for wear.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Does your son's preschool have a parents handbook with an illness exclusion policy in writing?

My son is older, but our criteria for keeping him home (besides the state-mandated exclusion policies-- which were listed in his preschool's handbook, as well as my own preschool, such as fever, etc.) is if the nose is running so much we can't keep it tidy-- because that's just gross-- but mostly his energy level. If their energy is good, if they can keep their noses tidy and the coughing isn't too much, then he goes to school.

Funny, the last time I subbed at the my friend's preschool, most of the kids had a runny nose or a cough. We just reminded them to cover their coughs and keep their noses wiped, had them do quite a bit of handwashing-- but germs happen!

Ask them to provide printed guidelines for families. I will say this, as somewhat of a more relaxed germaphobe, if you will-- one of the weird benefits of getting exposed and sick when they are young is that they are less likely to be missing a jillion days once they start kindergarten. I got sick a lot doing daycare work with toddlers in the first year-- honestly, I rarely get more than a common cold any more.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Richland on

So you have a stupid doctor that thinks he isn't contagious so the preschool is wrong? If he has a cold and his nose is running that snot is nothing but the cold virus. I would imagine he was touching his nose and then touching anything he felt like.

I have never heard of a child being sent home with a cold but good for them! Nothing made me more angry than when my kids got infected because moms sent their kids thinking no big deal.

When my kids were in preschool I kept them home with a cold because they WILL touch their nose and they WILL infect others. By the time they were in school they knew to always use tissue and wash their hands so I let them go with a mild cold.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

The doctor really said he wasn't contagious? I'm really surprised! Colds are very contagious.

Have you looked at the contract you signed with the pre-school when you first brought him? Does it actually say colds aren't allowed?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I'm sorry your little one has a cold. It is going around right now (I've got it too). The thing with colds, is that they are contagious. Anywhere he coughs or sneezes or wipes his runny nose on, spreads the cold germs all over and gets everyone else sick. I work in a school and it makes me crazy when parents bring sick kids to school. This is the reason I am sick now. Last week I had a girl in my class sneeze right on my face (I work with 2 year olds) when I was reading to her. I'm just glad we are out on snow days the last 2 days so I can get rest and be better by Monday to go back to work with out getting anyone else sick.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

if every kid with a cough or runny nose stayed home.. classrooms would be empty..

sure my kids stay home for fever vomiting diahrea.. and even a "bad" cold that they are really sick for .. but they can have a runny nose for a full week.. and cough for 3 weeks.. so if they stayed home for each cold.there wouldn't be much classroom time.. the same is true for adults.. a cold (even in an adult can be 7 days..and we don't take a full week off of work for a cold.. your day care is crazy..

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I have sent my kiddo countless times with a cold.

Fever, Vomiting, or the big D is the main reasons why we keep them home. Now, there is Hand Foot N Mouth, but that would fall into the fever category.. So Fever, Vomiting or "D".. Thus far.

Yep, colds are contiagous, but you can not controll that.. kids can have a cold half of the year.. you can not keep them home that much.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I think it's fear of the flu also! My son's high school sent out a message about keeping your student home if they are exhibiting any symptoms that might be the flu....

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

If the kids have cough or runny nose, unless the cough is so severe they are almost choking, then we always sent to school. Really, if we kept them home due to just either, they would miss so much school. Really, it is winter, more people stay inside and then there is the heat and lack of humidity. Coughing just goes with the territory. Same with runny nose.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

My kids are out of preschool now, but when they were they let them come with regular colds. That would be insane to keep them home every time they had a cold. My daughter and I and half of Michigan had a type of nasty cold/cough last year that lasted 6 weeks! When we get colds in our family they last an average of 2 weeks, and my kids get them a about 2-3 times a year. So do most kids that I know of. They'd never be in school!! Also, it's reallynhard to tell the diff. between allergies and a cold sometimes if you don't get itchy eyes from allergies, which many people do not.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Fever or diarrhea or vomiting is what get kids sent home over here.
Cough, sniffles, etc without a fever will not - although the kids would just love it if that worked.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i'm always a little surprised at how quickly parents and schools confine a kid for a cold, but that seems to be the norm these days.
why WOULDN'T he be contagious, though? runny noses are germ factories.
i myself am not afraid of germ factories, and made no particular moves to isolate a kid who wasn't feverish or droopy. but i'm old-school<G>.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

We go to school and work when we have a cold. We stay home when we have fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, or feel to sick to work.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I'm with B.D. If a child can blow and clean his own nose, send him. I'm not with cleaning noses. I've done it a million times, but I don't like doing it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

So you are saying this is the tale end of his cold? Its true that we are not necessarily contagious at the end stages, but if this is a new, but mild cold, he is contagious.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Right now in our schools - there has been a lot of sick kids - strep, flu, etc. so they are trying to be proactive to keep it from spreading.

I haven't had kids in day care in when my kids were in daycare they were NOT sent home for a runny nose. Fever and not-normal behavior - like sluggish, weepy, etc.

I keep my kids home when they have a fever. And a fever for **ME** is 2 degrees above normal. So when my kids are at 99.9 - that's a fever - because like me - they run 97degrees.

My oldest son came home on Monday with a fever - 100 - we were treating with cold meds - on Wednesday he wasn't better - took him in - he had strep and a sinus infection - he's on antibiotics now. However school was closed yesterday and today so he only missed 3 days of school - and it's the only days he's missed this year.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I guess it would depend on how runny of a runny nose he had. If it was running like a faucet, then yes, I could see where they would prefer that he be home instead of school. If it was just that he needed to blow his nose every now and then, then, no, he would've been fine staying at school.


answers from Seattle on

Kids have to be fever free, vomit free, and diarrhea free for 24 consecutive hours before they can go back to school. I take that into consideration when I look at my kids and how sick they are or are not. I also look at their energy levels and appetite.

In October my daughter came home with strep throat on a Friday. I had already scheduled my son's well child check up for that day, and the doc was kind enough to take a look at her at the same time. She was on antibiotics starting Saturday. I COULD have sent her back to school on Monday, but she was still pretty lethargic and had very little appetite. She finally went back on Wednesday.

There is a certain look to my kids when they're not feeling well. That and all they want to do is cuddle with me when they're REALLY sick.

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