Letting Your Kid Stay Home Sick From School Won't Hurt Their Learning, Study Says, So Err On The Side Of Caution

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There's a certain amount of stress and guilt associated with keeping kids home from school, even when there's medical cause to do so. Sick days lead to missed material, putting kids at risk of falling behind in their studies — or so parents have been told. But letting your kid stay home sick from school apparently won't hurt their learning after all, according to a recent study. These findings come as particularly good news during flu season, when it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to sending kids to school sick.

The study, recently published in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, looked at nearly 600,000 Danish children to determine the impact of illness-related absences on learning. By examining the hospital admissions and drug prescriptions from 598,553 people born between 1987 and 1997, researchers found no correlation between the amount of sick days or prescriptions and ability to complete elementary and middle school, according to Fatherly. Researchers also controlled for other factors influencing health, such as birth weight, mental or chronic illness, and parent’s level of education.

Lead researcher and coauthor of the study, Ole Köhler-Forsberg of Aarhus University in Denmark, told Science Daily that these findings indicate that severity of disease — and not the number of sick days — impacts cognitive development.

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Köhler-Forsberg went on to explain that more severe illnesses are cause for concern when it comes to education:

Our findings indicate that as long as we "only" have a case of less severe infections, and even though the child is definitely ill and requires medicine, the child’s cognitive development is not at risk. On the other hand, we found that children who had been admitted to hospital as a result of severe infections had a lower chance of completing 9th grade.

While less severe infections won't set your kids back in school, more severe diseases, such as those that can be vaccinated against like measles, rubella or meningitis, can impact education. In those cases, parents should look into supplemental resources to keep their little ones on track.

These findings are timely, as a large number of parents are sending their children to school with flu-like symptoms, according to the New York Post. Between concerns over attendance and the impact of missed days on their education, children are in school when they should be at home. Health experts recommend that if your child is experiencing any symptoms, they should be kept at home.

Even if their display of symptoms seems mild to you, Darci Hodge, director of infection control at East Tennessee Children's Hospital told USA Today that parents need to have more than just their own children in mind:

Be aware of the needs of other people. Your child may have the flu and may not act all that sick. But they can affect another child or their teacher. It can cause them to be very sick and very harmful to someone else.

Certain symptoms warrant automatically keeping your little one home for the day, according to Health Line. If he or she has a temperature at or above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, vomiting and diarrhea, extreme fatigue, persistent cough or sore throat, or pain, school is probably out of the question for the time being. When kids are overly fatigued — think, falling asleep at the dinner table fatigued — they probably won't benefit from a day at school either. If any symptoms would prevent them from participating in the day's activities in the classroom, sending them to school would just be a waste.

As ideal as it would be for kids to be healthy all the time, it's just not realistic. They catch colds and sometimes need to sit out for the day. Sometimes sick days are necessary and Köhler-Forsberg told Fatherly that his team's findings "ought to reassure those parents who find that their young children are often sick." Keeping kids home unnecessarily doesn't do anyone any good, but neither does sending them to school sick. Parents have plenty to stress over without worrying about the impact of a few sick days. Fortunately, they don't have to.

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