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When Does a Child Need a Sick Day?

How does a busy parent make that quick judgement call of whether their child is too sick to go to school?

“It’s kind of hard to make that judgment in the morning,” said Dr. Timothy Shope, an associate professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, who is the co-editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics book Managing Infectious Diseases in Child Care and Schools: A Quick Reference Guide.”

“Sometimes very well-intentioned parents have only a short window to make a judgment before they have to activate their day, get the child on the bus,” he said. And those parents may be feeling pressure to get to their own jobs.

“In a poll of parents conducted by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Michigan and released last month, parents were asked about how they make that decision. Concern about the illness getting worse if the child went to school was very important to 60 percent of the parents, followed by concern that the child’s classmates might get sick (47 percent). This was especially true for parents of younger school-age children, 6 to 9 years old. Parents of older children, not surprisingly, tended to worry more about children falling behind or missing a test.”

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