If Your Child Has A Cold, Here Are The 3 Main Reasons To Keep Them Off School

When is it best for kids to stay home? We ask the experts

At this time of the year it can feel like almost everyone around you is sneezing or sniffing so its likely your child will come home having caught a cold. Whether they have a little sniffle or sound really bunged up, how do you know when theyre too ill to go to school?

Paediatrician Keir Shiels says he often gets asked this by parents but theres very rarely a precise answer. The main reasons to keep a child out of school are: 1) If by going to school the child puts other children at risk; 2) If the child will be incapable of engaging with school activities; and 3) If by going to school the child will not be able to comply with a prescribed regimen of medication.


Other children are only at risk if your child has something serious or very contagious. You cant stop children sharing colds, says Shiels. If your child is recovering from chicken pox or diarrhoea, theres specific advice available for when your child stops being contagious.

However, most coughs and colds dont fall into this category and, whilst they can be passed on to other children, they arent generally risky diseases. Dont wait for your child to be cough-free or snot-free before sending them to school.

Dont wait for your child to be cough-free or snot-free before sending them to school."

That being said, not all colds are the same. Shiels second point is important if your child has a fever, they wont be able to concentrate and theyll have low energy. Similarly, if theyre struggling to breathe, they wont be able to deal with sums or spellings. Look at how easily distractible your child is are they able to play, sing, watch TV like normal? he says.

Or are they very out of character? Are they eating and drinking? A headache is often resolved with a steamy shower and some Calpol. If your child doesnt have a fever and is easily distractible, they are probably well enough for school.

To this extent, there are no hard and fast rules about when you should keep them off school as parents, you have to exercise some common sense.