Location SpotlightWhen a child gets sick, it can be a challenging decision for parents to make on whether to keep them home from school or not. There is always the worry that sending them to school might spread the illness and make other kids sick. However, it's normal to struggle with feelings of guilt if your child has to miss out on educational opportunities or school events because of an illness. Making this decision can be hard, and at Capital Area Pediatrics, we understand that you want to do what's best for your child. That's why we've outlined everything you need to know to help you decide whether your child should take a sick day or not.

When Should I Keep My Child Home From School?

Knowing when to keep your child home from school due to symptoms of illness isn't always an easy decision. If you are concerned about your child's health, it is imperative to consider their symptoms and contact your pediatrician for advice. Some schools may be willing to allow them at school with the proper guidelines in place. At Fairfax County schools in Virginia, the guidelines state that students demonstrating any of the following symptoms will be sent home from school:

  • Fever (100.4 or greater).
  • Chills.
  • Cough.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Loss of taste/smell.
  • Sore throat.
  • Fatigue.
  • Muscle aches/body aches
  • Runny Nose/Congestion.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Headaches. 

If these symptoms are reported while your child is in school, you will be contacted to pick them up from school. If you suspect that your child has something serious, it is recommended that you contact your pediatrician to determine whether an urgent visit is needed. At Capital Area Pediatrics, we make it convenient to book an appointment online when your child is sick. You can also use our patient portal for less urgent questions that could be answered in 48 business hours.

It’s important to note that if your child has any of the above sick symptoms, we do recommend they get a COVID-19 test (at least 2 rapid tests separated by 24-48 hours). Our providers will determine whether another test (specifically for the flu, RSV, or strep) needs to be performed. The general rule of thumb is to keep your child home until they have been fever-free for 24 hours with no fever-reducing medications, improved or improving symptoms, and feeling well enough to be in school. Your provider at Capital Area Pediatrics can help you with this decision and write a letter of clearance to return to school.

When Should I Take My Child To Their Pediatrician?

If your child needs urgent medical attention, but the problem is not life-threatening, you should take them in for a sick visit as soon as possible. Heading to your pediatrician instead of the emergency department can reduce wait time and overcrowding at the emergency room for non-life-threatening issues and allow room for those who may have more urgent and serious matters. This way, you can help your sick family member and the healthcare system at the same time! Here are some tips to help you decide what kind of care your child requires:

  • For urgent medical care needs (in less than 24 hours), you’ll want to keep an eye out for signs such as:
    • A fever greater than 100.4 in infants under 3 months.
    • A fever greater than 102 in children under age one.
    • Multiple episodes of vomiting in 24 hours.
    • Trouble breathing (fast breathing at rest; trouble talking/ speaking).
    • Dehydration in your child (no urine output in 8 hours or more).
    • Lethargy in your child, or they seem unarousable.
    • Significant medical history of serious conditions or chronic medical conditions, like recurrent pneumonia or asthma.
  • For less urgent matters, your child can likely wait to be seen for one to three days. These signs include:
    • Symptoms lasting longer than one week.
    • Any fever, sore throat, cough, cold, or ear pain in a child less than one-year-old. Most of these symptoms peak in the first three to five days. It’s recommended that you:
      • Use appropriate Tylenol or Motrin for fever control.
      • Keep them hydrated.
      • Avoid over-the-counter cough and cold medications.

If you are unsure about how to handle your child’s symptoms, please see our website’s Health Topics for related information to fevers and the dosing of medications. You can also visit this Symptom Checker for valuable information on symptoms and what to do.

Capital Area Pediatrics provides express sick visits and pediatric urgent care services performed by highly trained pediatric nurses, physician assistants, and physicians who specialize in children's health. They will be able to assess any urgent needs of acutely sick patients or provide necessary treatments or resources quickly. However, it's important to note that if your child is exhibiting signs of a serious life-threatening health condition or traumatic injury, you should proceed directly to an emergency room for emergency care.

At Capital Area Pediatrics, we understand the importance of making sure your child is healthy and happy. Families can utilize our express self-scheduling tool to be seen within 24 hours for any illness that requires attention. We also provide various additional services to prevent illness, like well-child visits, specialty care for chronic conditions, and more. Our team of board-certified pediatricians is here to serve you and your children during these times of uncertainty. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your child's health, don't hesitate to give us a call or schedule an appointment online.

If your child needs pediatric care, Capital Area Pediatrics offers top-tier pediatric care to families at five surrounding locations throughout Northern Virginia. Our dedicated team is committed to providing everything from newborn care to early developmental / autism care for your child. All of our providers are accepting new patients and would be happy to reconnect with our existing families. Request an appointment online, or find a location near you today.