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When your sick child really isn’t

Submitted by on Tuesday, 20 April 2010 No Comment

They’re probably not doing it because they’re out to get you – though it feels like it sometimes – but you’re right about the second part: Day cares do send kids home when they’re not all that sick.

At least, day cares in Wisconsin would, according to a new study published this week in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Based on a telephone survey that outlined five scenarios – none of which involved a child sick enough to be evicted from day care under the academy’s guidelines – day-care directors made the incorrect call 57 percent of the time.

Wow. That’s a lot of unnecessary time off work or needless, stressful scrambles for backup care for a lot of working parents. The kicker: Centers in areas with higher percentages of single moms were more likely to say they’d send kids home sick when they weren’t.

The scenarios were a cold, pink eye, stomach flu, mild fever and a scalp infection. A study four years earlier in Maryland with similar scenarios showed similar results: Day care centers tended to say they’d keep kids out who could have stayed. In that poll, though, parents did, too.

The confusion on pink eye is easy to see, and rare is the day care that doesn’t send a kid home at the first sign of redness. According to the academy, pink eye is no different from the common cold, and neither is reason enough to keep a child out.

The other scenarios – colds, upset stomachs, mild diarrhea – seem more like cases of “don’t want to fool with it” than they do actual health risks. A friend swears her day care looks for kids to send home if they’re understaffed because a teacher called in sick. The days her kid was kicked out for having a runny nose and mild diaper rash would seem to bear that out.

But what do I know? Big Guy was almost sent home from school last year with a case of highly contagious eczema. Luckily, the school health tech knew better.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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