The threshold of illness

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had both my daughter and my younger son off school ill. They’re rarely ill and you really don’t expect it in the spring, but these things happen. I’m lucky that I work at home and am able to look after them.

Neither of them were very unwell, but nor were they well enough for school. My daughter came out of school on a Monday saying she felt sick. She was ill enough not to go to her dance lessons. She forced herself to go to school the next day, saying she would ask to come home if she didn’t feel well enough. She told them twice she felt ill, but they didn’t let her go home. She looked like death when I picked her up. So she missed two days of school and a whole week of dance lessons.

My son had a sore throat before bed one day, but went to school the next day, which happened to be both sports day and the first real hot and sunny day of the year. He has very pale skin and didn’t use the suncream I’d put in his bag. The boy who came home was sunburnt, with puffy eyes, a headache, a sore throat and a blocked nose. He wasn’t well enough for school the next day.

Neither of them had temperatures and neither of them were sick. But I knew they weren’t right. My kids will always go to school if they feel well enough, so I had to trust that they were ill enough to be off school.

My husband wasn’t so sure. His exact words were that he thinks the ‘threshold of illness’ has changed. If he’d felt like my son was feeling, he’d have gone to work.

But he’s his own boss. If he’s feeling a bit under the weather, he can work a bit slower. Nobody is making him do PE or do a test when his eyes are swollen and his head is aching.

The reality is, older kids do have less temperatures and they are sick less often, but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel ill. Letting them have a day (or two days in my daughter’s case) off school felt like the right thing to do.

What do you do? When are kids ill ‘enough’ to be allowed a day off school?

Calpol, Medicine, Illness, Kids

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. ‘When their parents don’t have to think about childcare’ seems to be the answer in our school. I’ve heard parents talking about horrible snotty colds and chest infections, ‘but I’m sending her in anyway,’ and it horrifies me. Having a child for whom just a cold can cause a serious illness related to her own condition really makes me realise the impact illness can have on children. With adults, it’s easier to avoid the germs – they’re not in such close contact, they can remember to wash hands and steer clear of those with a cold, but kids can’t do that in school. Plus, you’re right, they’re at the mercy of teachers, who can’t give them a slack day just because they feel a bit off.

    Mine are very similar to yours, they would need to be really unwell to want to stay off school, but I think provided they’re not missing something essential, a duvet day here and there probably prevents the need for even more days off, or at least gets them back on point and learning well, much quicker. I’d have kept them off 🙂

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    • Thanks very much. I hate it when parents send in kids who are clearly ill and I hadn’t even considered the effect on kids like your daughter with chronic conditions. I think whether or not parents can get time off work is definitely a factor in their decision-making, though! This is unfair on the ill child and unfair on other kids in class, but I can also understand parents feeling they are in a difficult situation with work.

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  2. I’d do exactly as you have done. You know them and you know they’re the kind of kids who are genuinely ill when they say they’re not up to things. My girl adores school so if she agrees to a day off, I know she desperately needs it. As you say, it’s easier when they’re little as the signs are more obvious, but definitely better to have a day or two of complete rest to get back to normal than to keep working and get worse. Hope they’re on the up now.

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    • Thanks very much! They’re better now (although we did have a blip with my daughter earlier this week). You’re right, most parents know their kids and know if they are genuinely well enough or not. I’ve had my kids in tears because they were so desperate to go to school when they were ill before.

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  3. Great topic….I find that the school my 5 year old and 9 year old attend are happier if we keep them off, even if its because they feel a little ill as they would prefer that than making other kids ill. I have seen and i’m afraid do get a little annoyed with parents who are sending kids in who are clearly and visibly ill and are hanidng over bottles of Calpol to keep them going (which the school no longer allows)..although I do eqaully understand the pressure on workiung parents in relation to ringing in sick (possibly for the 3 or 4th time if you have more than one child)
    My eldest daughter who is at secondary hates to be off as they school make such as fuss to the point she gets spoken to by the head of form, even though I have called the school and explained the absence which is more often than not linked to her asthma. My daugher has dragged herself in and then come home even worse because th school have refsued to call me telling her she will be fine until home time. She has now been told to ring me herself and I will ring the school and tell them I AM collecting her.
    I think its all gone a little OTT as with many things these days. If my chld is ill or even says they feel run down I keep them off (providing they are not totally swinging the led) BUT and its a big BUT I work in our family business so it easy for me to do that. If I worked elsewhere I know 100% I would not be able to afford my kids quite such flexibility unless really unwell.

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    • Thanks very much! I think you’re right, primary schools would generally prefer that they didn’t go in when they were ill. I was surprised and disappointed that our school didn’t send my daughter home when she was ill, as she isn’t the type to lie about it. But I think they need to see vomit before they send them home!
      Sorry to hear your secondary school is so unhelpful. My eldest has only had one or two days off school since he’s been at secondary – and he’s in year 10 – so we’ve never had these difficulties.
      It is definitely harder for parents who have to go into work, but I still think it’s wrong to send them in ill. And our school won’t accept Calpol either – unless it’s for an injury rather than an illness.

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  4. Completely agree, you know your kids are not 100% and when they need a day off. We have parents at ours that send their kids in even when very ill but the teachers are really strict and won’t mess about in calling those parents quick smart especially as they drop like flies in reception!

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    • I hate it when parents send poorly kids in! It’s unfair on the child and it’s unfair on the rest of the class too. Good to hear that your teachers won’t stand for it!

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  5. You know them and you know when genuinely ill. I hate hearing kids that are sent to school and nursery clearly ill. I’m lucky that I do have childcare even when I’m at work to watch them.

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    • That’s good you have childcare even when you’re at work. My parents used to help out with childcare, but they weren’t often keen to have the kids when they were ill.

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  6. Oh this made me a bit cross. Your daughter seems like such a sensible girl and for her to say to school that she’s ill and for them to refuse to let her go home seems utterly ridiculous, who are they to make that decision for her? Very unfair. I agree with you, as long as you know they’re sensible, they’ll tell you if they’re too ill to go to school and you can trust them on it.

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    • Thank you! It made me a bit cross too. I really felt she wasn’t well enough for school, but I felt reassured that they would send her home if she was ill. So I wasn’t happy when she came out after a full day, obviously not well, and they hadn’t called me. I guess they look for the obvious signs – being sick or having a temperature – and as she had neither of those, they didn’t think she was ill. I could see how ill she was as soon as she walked out of the classroom, though!

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  7. Oh my girl would go into school vomiting and with both legs chopped off but she is 5. I am sure this will change when she’s older! As a teacher I get every bloomin thing going which is a total pain in the bum! You would think I get used to it. But I don’t! x

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    • Ha ha, bless her! My kids have always begged to go into school when they’re ill and cried when I’ve refused them. I’m not surprised you don’t get used to kids being ill at school, because you never really get used to it as a parent either (well, I don’t!). x

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  8. I agree completely!! You know your own children. If they are always looking for reasons to be off, well then you’d think twice, (& try to find out why!!), but if it’s out of character it’s surely your job as a parent to keep them home.

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  9. I know I have sent mine a few times this year when I probably wouldn’t have done when I was working from home. It is really tricky, yes they can just have a sore throat or a cold or even just feel a bit run down, but sometimes they just need a day of rest to get back to themselves again. If you did send them, they could get worse and be ill for ages. It is a tough one but I think you know your kids best and you are equipped to make the right decision.

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    • Thanks very much, that’s exactly it! If my daughter hadn’t insisted on going to school on the Tuesday when she clearly wasn’t right, she may not have needed two days off to recover from it! At this age, I think they are sensible enough to make their own decisions, with just a bit of intervention from parents if they’re clearly getting it too wrong!

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