Sick Child Policies at Daycare

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Can I make up sick days at preschool?

March 2010

Can you make up sick days at your preschool without extra cost? A few of my friends can but before I broach the topic at our preschool I'd like to see how widespread this practice is (or isn't). Thanks, BPN! would love to not lose sick days

Are you asking if you can get your money back for a day that your child is sick or apply that money to future days? Our preschool's policy on that was no -- for very sound business reasons. Budget and staffing are set well in advance. If your child is out sick one day, the teachers are still there providing care and need to be paid for a full day's work. It wouldn't be fair (and probably not legal) for them to have a fluctuating paycheck because kids are out sick.

Nope. Although it's not too unusual for things like dance lessons or Music Together classes, I would be absolutely astonished to find a preschool that offered ''make up'' days. Holly

In general, you can't make up sick days at preschool. Child care is strictly regulated in terms of how many children can be present at any time, so unless the school is quite large and can afford to have open spots, most schools are filled to capacity on a daily basis. Also, most run with a minimal profit margin, so getting paid for the extra days is one of the few ways schools can earn much needed extra money. school director

Nope, and I wouldn't expect to get to make up sick days. The teacher is still there even if my kid isn't, and can't give away the space for the day. That said, my preschool clearly states in its paperwork that missed days CAN'T be made up for free. I think it's worth asking if you honestly don't know -- but if you know there aren't make-ups, I think you need to live with that answer.


Daycare sending baby home for runny nose or less

Feb 2009


My husband and I both work full time and our six month old is in an in-home daycare with seven other children. He is really happy there and the caretakers are nice really great with him. The issue we are having is that the daycare has called us a handful of times since he started three months ago to ask if we can pick him up early because he had a bad runny nose, he threw up or he just wasn't ''being himself.'' One time they called he did turn out to have a virus and we kept him home for a week. The few other times I picked him up early, he was totally fine. I have no problem to pick him up if he is sick and understand how important it is to keep a sick child home to get better and not get the other kids sick. On the other hand, sometimes we all just have off days. There are no health issues with him in general. My question is what is the balance? This is our first so we would love some advice navagating this. What do other in-home daycares do in these situations? Thank you!

Does your daycare have a written sick policy? I used several family-based daycares for my son, and they all had a specific policy for when a child had to be picked up or not attend daycare (usually with a little flexibility, depending on the provider). Usually, the sick policy includes fever, vomiting, diarrhea, pink eye, or other infectious disease. A runny nose alone is not reason enough to pick up your child, or else he would spend most of the winter at home. ''Not being himself'' is also not a clear enough reason, since he could just be teething, tired, or cranky. I would ask your provider if they have a written list of what constitutes a stay-at-home-illness, and when the child would be allowed to return (e.g., after fever/diarrhea/vomiting is gone, after starting meds for pink eye). If your provider doesn't have such a list, or continues to send your son home for vague ''illnesses,'' you might want to consider trying another place that is more understanding about runny noses and bad moods. Been there

When we ran an in-home daycare years ago, if a child had more than very mild sniffles, we'd look at the situation closely. In most cases though, the parent or guardian was called. We understood that people have to work and such, but it was not fair to have a sick child making others sick. We lost count of how many times a sick child (apparently) led to one/some of us being sick. Or other children would end up sick. This would lead to those children's parents either being upset about the situation or then trying to bring their own sick child or both. More than a few times a parent would be upset when they'd drop their child off or pick it up and notice another child there sick. Soooooo, sorry mom/dad/guardian but this has gone beyond a sneeze or sniffle and you need to come get your child. Some parents didn't like this policy but it was clearly stated in the contract that every attendee had to sign. And the only time we lost an attendee was when there was a change in their family situation (job, residential move, etc) or once when the mother bounced one too many checks and got the boot. None left (to our knowledge) because of our sick-child policy. All that said, you two should come up with a rotation plan for who takes time off when the little one is sick. Clear communication of the situation with your respective managers/supervisors in advance should help. Arrange a relative to help out periodically in cases like this. And look into whether there is a local short-term sick-child-capable daycare as a last resort. a father & ex-daycare administrator

There was just an article in the NY Times that applies. Look at: another 1st-timer in daycare

I run a in home daycare in Berkeley. If the kids have a fever or are throwing up I call parents to come and pick them up. A runny nose is nothing to be concerned about. As a general rule of thumb, if the child just has a cold, but is up for play and behaving normally there should be no reason for you to have to pick up. If the child is seeming out of sorts and having a continually bad day (due to cold) I call parents. Sometimes I may call parents just to give them a heads up that their child does not seem to be doing well and that I will keep them posted through out the day. anon

I think that you should look into a different daycare for your child. Although it is irresponsible to leave your child in daycare when he/she is VERY ill (fever, vomiting, etc)... a runny nose is something that frequently lasts LONG after an illness/infection is gone. The state licensed preschool/daycare my daughter attends feels that there is no point in keeping a child home for a mere runny nose (if it is not discolored mucus)- it does not prevent the spread of illness to others. By the time the runny nose appears, it is too late and the germs have already been spread. Both pediatricians that we have seen have agreed. elizabeth


Contagious Kids at Daycare

Oct 2006


Did your kid get impetigo? My 18 mth old was just diagnosed with it on his thigh (we got antibiotics and we're on the road to recovery) and I learned that an older child at our small family day care had it a month ago. And his parents still sent him to day care! The day care said that his impetigo (on his arm) was covered with a bandage and he was on antibiotics. But the bacteria is still on his fingers and his clothes. I'm taking time off work to keep my child at home and working late at night to try to keep up. I called daycare to let them know what I'm doing but to also give the other families a heads up that my child has impetigo and they should be aware of it. It's supposed to be highly contagious. Is it too much to start an email thread with the other parents and try to come to an agreement about keeping sick kids at home? I knew that with a daycare setting, that my child would be exposed to illnesses. However, if another parent is knowingly sending their sick kid to daycare, it makes me mad. The other child just a drop in and he's not there much. My child is there fulltime and I won't take the chance of daycare if he's sick Trying My Best Not to Spread Illnesses

I know how frustrating it is to miss work because your child is sick, but before you start a war with the other family at your child's day care, I'd like to point out a couple of things.

First, you have no way of knowing if your child caught impetigo from the other child. In fact, if a month elapsed between when the other child had it and when your child developed it, I think the odds that your child got it from the other child are pretty close to zero (you might want to check with your family physician about that one, I'm not a medical person, but it's my understanding that bacteria don't survive outside a host for more than a few days). Impetigo is a common infection among children. It is often (though not always) caused by the same bacteria as strep throat, so if anyone in your family or social circle has had strep lately, they may be the ''culprit''.

Second, the other family may very well have been following the advice of their pediatrician about when it was ok to bring their child back to day care. My son had a mild case of impetigo last year, and I was told that as long as his lesions weren't oozing (he had a mild enough case that they never did), and as long as he had been on the antibiotic for at least 24 hours, and as long as I had carefully bathed him and washed all of his clothing (which, of course, I did), that he shouldn't be contagious, and I could send him back to preschool -- which I did. Perhaps your family doctor has given you different advice, but you can hardly blame the other family for sending their child back to day care if their doctor said it was ok.

I think it would be worthwhile to have a dialog about this with your family physician (if you haven't already done so) and also with your day care provider. However, I think you should reconsider your position that your child must have caught impetigo from the other child -- I think it's quite likely that you're mistaken about this. Good luck! Diane

IMHO, it should not be up to you to hassle with email and ''trying to come to an agreement'' about keeping sick kids home. The daycare probably already has such a policy that needs to be reminded and reinforced. If they don't have a policy, they should. I would talk to the director of the day care and ask/tell them to come up with a policy, announce and enforce it. If not, you will have to find a different day care. And in this case, to keep from being too mad, give the other parents the benefit of the doubt--maybe they thought/were told that their child was not contagious because it was covered. You could pass on to the director any information you have about the contagious period of different diseases if you want anon

My kids just had impetigo. You may not know this but after they have been on antibiotics for 24 they are no longer contagious. My doctor told me to keep my kids home one day and then they can go back to school. The rash may still be oozy looking but not contagious. I think you need to know the whole story from this other family before your anger gets the best of you or best of all LET IT GO. Kids get all kinds of rashes and illnesses in and out of daycare. My son got impetigo while we were staying out in the middle of the woods this summer because he scratched his mosquito bites like crazy Rashy Mom

You know, my kids have pretty much caught every bizarre little thing at pre-school. I keep my kids (18-months and 3 1/2) home when I know they have something and I am pretty sure that every other parent that you will run across will tell you the same thing. Sadly, most of the things my kids catch are given to them before their parents know that they have an issue or recognize it as an issue.

My guess is that every parent on the BPN has a child (yours included) who has unwittingly passed along a bug to another child. Children give varying amounts of notice re: their discomfort, so it can be tough to see an issue coming on..

It sounds like you are upset that you are taking some time off of work that possibly could be prevented. We've all been there. I know that I don't point the finger at other parents. I really look at my children's preschool to keep me informed of the bugs roaming around campus. If you don't like how your daycare handled the situation or health issues in general, then it is time to find a new daycare. I know that my daughters' preschool has a formalized procedure for handling potential health issues. They send out a notice to every parent whenever something surfaces. They also note specifically how the issue should be handled by the parents before the child is allowed back in the school (in this case, it would be oral antibiotics for 24-hours or the rash would be cleared up). Additionally, they call parents to pick up their kids after the second loose stool, etc. -been there

It's my understanding that by law day care providers are supposed to notify parents when kids have been exposed to certain contangious illnesses. There is a form at the Bananas website:, that providers can use to notify parents. I don't think an email tree will work as there are always those parents that take their kids to daycare despite the fact that they might be under the weather. I'm usually good about it, but yes, I've taken my kid in sick when I've had clients flying in from out of town for a meeting that I couldn't postpone.

At my son's daycare, as well as those of friends, the protocol is that there is a letter given out the parents indicating what their kid might've been exposed to. I've gotten numerous letters for coaxil virus and one for chicken pox, but my son never came down with any of those (I guess the sick kid was in another class). It's crucial to get these notices, which includes symptoms, as you know what to keep an eye out for in case your kid starts feeling out of sorts. Our day care also has the policy that if there is green nose mucus or a fever a kid has to be out for at least 24 hours. Also, if he/she has had a contangious illness, I think we're supposed to bring in proof that they've been on antibiotics (if required) for a certain amount of time or get a doctor's note. Yes, it's a pain when it's your child that's sick, but it's a good system as when it's someone else's kid that's sick, hopefully it prevents your child from coming down with the same thing.

You might want to also get the licensing agency teleophone number from Bananas to report to the agency that your day care isn't doing this and they'll do an inspection to see if there are any other irregularities.

Our day care also gives us a form if our kid has had a minor accident at school, such as scraping a knee or bonking his head on the play structure anon


Daycare provider wants to quarantine my child

June 2003


Hi I am facing a wierd challenge with a child care facility. My son had been attending a new family child care facility in Berkeley for the last 5 months. Recently, we told the teacher we are going to be away for 3 days, for a trip to Vancouver Canada. After we returned, and my son was already eager to return to routine, I received a telephone call, the night before he should have resumed school, that she is concerned about SARS, and therefore would like him not to come for the next 10 days. I told her that: 1. we gave her a month notice of our trip, and she could have said that earlier. 2. that there is no SARS in Vancouver. 3. that this is very disruptive for me and damaging for the child. 4. that I think it is also illegal. Any comments ? should I call the licensing authority ? what would you do ? THank Mom

Regardless if Vancouver is a SARS area or not I think your preschool teacher was absolutely right. SARS is a serious disease which transmits frighteningly easily, city to city, country to country. Many have died. The elderly, pregnant and children are esp. vulnerable.Whether it is legal or not, is irrevelant, your preschool Director has a moral responsibility to the rest of the children and families in your school to ensure they are not inadvertantly infected. Who did you sit next to on the plane? Was there someone on the plane from Toronto sharing your air? 5 days is not a lot in the life of a child esp. if it means not getting infecting others with a life threatening illness. anon

Call BANANAS at 658-7353. In addition to their expertise on daycare issues, they have up-to-date information about SARS. They can also give you more information about making complaints to the licensing board. Jennifer

Perhaps the daycare provider is erring on the side of caution. Definitely do not think this is illegal,tho. As a parent of a child who might be in your childs daycare, I do have to say that if there was any chance that the other kids could be infected...its best to make absolutely sure, right? Your provider should have warned you, however. anonymous

Your daycare provider sounds like she is a few cards short of a full deck. You went to Canada, and there is SARS in some part of Canada (not the part you went to) so therefore she assumes you might have SARS? What about the SARS case in Sacramento - that's a heck of a lot closer to us than Vancouver is to Toronto - she is not worried about that? OK, sarcasm aside, I personally would look for another daycare. She sounds a little slow on the draw and might make other errors of judgement in future that could have an even worse effect than some missed work days. Just my opinion. G.

Call (800) 333-3212 - the California Child Care Health Program (affiliated with UCSF) for telephone advice from a pediatric nurse. I'm sure they have received many calls about SARS in the past few months and will be able to give you the latest information from the County Health Department. Lisa

After reading the two or three responses siding with your day care provider, I was flabbergasted! Toronto is THOUSANDS of miles away from Vancouver, there are healthy people living and working everywhere in and around Toronto, and Canada (of all places) has been as responsible a public health protectorate as anywhere in the world, including our republic of Northern California. Your health care provider is out of line, though perhaps not breaking any laws.

I have a couple of relatives who live in Toronto who say things are normal. Parents and children and pregnant women and professionals and artists, etc. are not wearing masks and staying at home.

I myself am 4 months pregnant at the end of this month will take a 10-day trip (alone) to Canada (on Air Canada and smaller carriers) in which the first and last nights are spent in Ottowa, about 150 miles away from Toronto. My physician assured me that there was very low risk and I should not fret, and that if I was nervous I should wash my hands a lot.

What comes to mind is the ultimately sensible post in the last recommendations newsletter responding to someone's questions about protecting from West Nile Virus. You could point out to your day care provider that the probability is very low, and driving around in a car every day probably puts your fellow day care kids and parents at greater risk.

Finally, I've talked with OUR day care provider about my trip and SARS and our toddler and the other kids and she agrees that there is not a risk that would cause her to quarantine our child. I'm pretty sure that it is your provider's right to do what she's done, but if it were me, I'd go somewhere else that wasn't going to be so reactionary and unreasonable. anon


Daycare sends a child home who has a runny nose

March 2001


I'm wondering what rules are in use out there to decide when a child must stay home from daycare. My new daycare provider is very strict about sending a child home who has a runny nose with clear mucus that has to be wiped frequently. I always thought it was the green/yellow mucus that was more problematic. I'm stressing out about this because if I have to stay home every time my daughter has a runny nose I'll soon be unemployed!! Any guidelines/medical info would be much appreciated. Thanks! Nancy

As a provider myself, a runny nose can mean diferent things and one of those is teething. I don't send kids home for a runny nose but if I see more than that, fever or maybe the child is not feeling too happy, I will do something about it.

We have experience with 2 different daycare providers for our 2 children. The provider for our first child passed away a couple of years ago. Now we have our second child with a different provider. Both providers had a practical attitude about sniffles: that children have runny noses a lot in the winter. As long as the child can play and is not grumpy, they can stay at daycare. However, if the nose is constantly runny and the child is not feeling well, he/she should stay home. Our baby has a cold right now. It is drying up, but if she does not sleep well tonight and still needs lots of tissues today, I will keep her home tomorrow.

Other guidelines: If there is a fever over 101, the child should stay home until they are fever-free for day. This is a good policy. I felt bad one time when I sent my child back to daycare after I thought a fever was gone and it spiked up again. The child should definitely stay home if there is vomiting going on until they are vomit-free for a day. We had 2 incidents where a child vomitted the previous night and the parents sent them in the next day instead of keeping them home. The virus spread like wild-fire to all the children and the teachers. The providers were extremely grateful when I kept my child home after she vomitted.

I suggest that you talk to your daycare provider and try to come to an agreement about sniffles versus bad colds. Then try to make alternate arrangements for when your child is too sick for daycare. Jeanne

Most daycare/preschools I visited and the one my daughter goes to are not as restrictive as the one your child goes to in terms of illness guidelines. For one, kids are contagious before they are symptomatic with lots of things, so you'll never be able to prevent things from spreading in that type of environment completely. Secondly, a clear mucus could also be symptoms of allergies or teething or other types of things. That being said, and you probably already knew that, my experience is that if the kid is feverish, lethargic or otherwise obviously real sick with something, they have to stay home. Even non-clear mucus isn't always something to freak out about! And diahrea (sp?) has been symptomatic in my daughter for teething too. I agree with you; if I had to keep my kid out at the sign of any kind of illness, I'd be unemployed too. And you get a bunch of kids together, that's what happens! You might call a couple of other places and see what their guidelines are as well... hilary

As a microbiologist and a mom, I think I can answer this question. First, it is a fallacy that green/yellow mucus is a reason to send a child home. All this indicates is the later stages of a cold or a sinus infection. Since colds generally aren't contagious in later stages and sinus infections aren't contagious at all, there is no reason to exclude children with green/yellow mucus from the nose. Also, I would like to know your daycare's basis for excluding children with clear mucus. Children tend to have runny noses for a week or two after the contagious phase of the cold has passed. So, again, no reason to exclude per se. Now, if they are using it as a marker to indicate a fresh cold, this may have some validity. They should be excluding children in the first 2 to 3 days of a cold (as this is the time the cold is most contagious - although this varies from virus to virus, and I'm not sure anyone really knows how long a cold is contagious). Children are also contagious just prior to symptoms.

So, I would: One, ask them for a more detailed exclusion policy. Clear mucus alone isn't a good reason. Second, is the daycare doing enough infection control? They should be washing hard toys with soap and warm or hot water every night. They should also immediately wash any hard toy that has been put in a child's mouth or gotten mucus on it. Soft toys that can't be washed on a nightly basis should be used one day, then taken out of circulation for two days (to give time for any viruses on them to die). If soft toys go in a child's mouth or get mucus on them, they should be immediately removed from circulation and washed or not used for two days. Also, childen should be encouraged to wash their hands frequently and sneeze into their shoulders (as should day care providers). If they sneeze into their hands, their hands should be immediately washed. Day care providers should also go home if they are sick (and be excluded for a couple of days also). Studies have shown that if these measures are instituted, there will be a significant decrease in the number of colds and influenzas passed around. This will make everyone's life easier. Hope this helps. Julie

A runny nose with clear mucus isn't necessarily a sign of contagion. It could be allergies, and definitely not a reason to exclude a child from daycare. Also, a child who has a runny nose caused by cold or flu probably got the bug at daycare and/or has exposed everyone there already. A runny nose is grounds for exclusion when it occurs in addition to a fever, lack of energy, or when it cannot be contained by occasional wiping. Louise

Bananas has a handout which covers this topic, and spells out guidelines for caregivers. I believe it is titled Establishing Illness Policies. I'd call them, or drop by and pick up a copy.