Go to work or stay home with your sick child?

Go to work or stay home with your sick child?

For working parents, it is always a concern. Can I miss work to stay home with a sick child? In fact, a survey conducted by the University of Michigan showed that one-third of parents are afraid they may lose their job or a day’s pay when their kids are sick and can’t go to child care.

Of those parents surveyed, nearly two-thirds say their child under six did not attend day care because of illness last year. Almost one-half of those parents indicated that they had missed work to care for them. And, one-quarter reported missing work three of more times in one year.

“I understand the challenges,” says Dr. Frank Belmonte, a pediatrician and Vice President, Pediatric Population Health for Advocate Children’s Hospital. “Since we both work, my wife and I must constantly have a back-up plan should our children get sick.”

But, Dr. Belmonte says unfortunately, there are no clear cut rules for when a child should stay home because of an illness. “Certainly if a child has a fever, they need to stay home,“ says Dr. Belmonte. “That is something they could pass along to other children in a day care setting. But for other, vaguer symptoms, parents just have to make a difficult call based upon their individual child.”

Dr. Belmonte offers three tips for parents struggling with what to do when their child begins to show symptoms:

  • At the first sign of sickness, take your child to their primary care provider. Addressing the illness quickly may prevent a missed day in child care. Also, know where the closest immediate or urgent care facility is located in your neighborhood in case your child needs care after hours.
  • Always have a back-up plan if your child does become ill. Talk with your employer about the company’s stance on working from home in just such an emergency. Line-up sitters, family or friends who can provide support, if necessary.
  • Keep your child healthy. Practice good hand hygiene and encourage them to keep hands out of their face and mouths so as not to spread germs. It can help in preventing sickness in the first place.

Dr. Belmonte adds, “In the end, always remember that if your child is not feeling well, they won’t be learning. Sending them to school any way is not fair to the child nor to the teacher.”

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  1. You do realize that most PCPs only have daytime hours, right? So running to your doctor is going to ensure you miss a day of work, even it it turns out your child isn’t really sick. Besides, it’s nearly impossible to get an appointment with most of your PCPs for weeks, so there goes that “at the first sign of sickness” thing.

    BTW, do you hear your privilege in talking about working from home? What do you suggest for the legions of big box workers, fast food workers, dock workers, construction workers, cab/Uber drivers, crossing guards, teachers, paraprofessionals, etc., etc., etc. who can’t work from home?

    I know I sound like a broken record here, Advocate, but if you were truly an advocate, you’d be addressing employers and legislators, not parents. Every employer should be required to give paid time off for child sickness.

  2. I thought this was going to provide insight into making the decision about whether or not to take off from work when your kid is sick… wasn’t that the title?? This seems like a push for people to schedule doctor’s appointment’s, however Dienne is spot-on, most of the time it’s not possible to schedule an appointment with a kid’s own physician within a few days. Sometimes the wait is a month or more, otherwise you can see a different practitioner sooner. And Dienne’s right again about that the majority of working adults do not have the option to work from home, even in offices like Advocate’s… usually the company wants the workers to be present, and for most it counts as an unscheduled day off when you have to stay home for a sick child.

    Honestly I don’t think every situation calls for making a doctor’s appointment… school aged kids are resilient, and with minor illnesses they can often be left home alone or with a relative to check on them for a few days to lay in bed and recover. My mom has been a nurse for more than 35 years, and she would call into work and stay home with us if we had a high fever lasting more than an hour (+101 F), or if vomiting wouldn’t let up. If the symptoms were milder such as a cold, headache, or bellyache then she’d decide to go into work and leave us home with a relative or alone if we were middle school age and above. Then she’d call to check on us throughout the day.

About the Author

Evonne Woloshyn
Evonne Woloshyn

Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!