It is an unfortunate fact that children will come to school sick or become ill while in class. Preschools are germ factories, and even with the best cleaning rituals and hand washing routines, children who may not excel at sharing toys have no issues sharing germs.

Sick Kids 

Some children will become ill while at school, and unfortunately, some parents dose their kids with medications and send them to school knowing they are sick. Being a parent is challenging, and some people have bosses who don’t understand sick kids or missed meetings. Or, the parent may not get paid sick leave, and every missed day is missed income. Whatever the case, it is crucial to have a policy at the door to check for signs of illness. 

Children who arrive at school lethargic, glassy-eyed, with running noses and consistent coughs or red eyes with yellow or crusty goop should immediately be evaluated for illness. 

Each school and childcare center has its own “Sick Policy,” and it is essential that, as a staff member, you adhere to that policy. However, if a child seems visibly ill, you should ask the parents about it. It may be the child didn’t sleep well, has seasonal allergies, or has a cold (with no fever) and, unfortunately, may not be themselves that day but is not required to stay at home.

If a child does not meet the criteria to be sent home, you should accommodate them and give them a place to rest or relax until they feel like joining in with the group. 

Sick Policy

Your center or preschool should have a Sick Policy that parents and guardians are aware of prior to enrollment. 

Sick policies include conditions under which a child must stay home or may be sent home, how much time a parent has to come to pick up a sick child, when the child may return to school, and what, if any, medications or medical treatment you are allowed to provide. 

Typical conditions in which a child may not attend preschool include:

  • A fever of 100.4 (F) or higher (must be fever free for 24 hours without medication to return)
  • Red, crusty, or goopy eyes
  • A persistent or heavy, wet cough or trouble breathing
  • Vomiting or diarrhea more than twice in 24 hours
  • Lethargic in appearance and not able to participate in daily activities
  • A rash or spots covering part or all of the body
  • Sore throat, difficulty swallowing, eating or drinking

Some conditions like a rash or red eyes may be allergies, and schools will allow a child to return with a doctor’s note.

COVID-19 Policies may be different and an addendum to the school’s regular sick policy. 

When parents pick up sick children, ensure they know the parameters under which the child may return to school. 

A Resting Place

If a child is ill, they should remain isolated from the class until a parent or approved emergency contact can pick them up. A separate, quiet area where they can rest and remain comfortable will help the child stay calm. 

The child should remain in sight of the teachers, and a teacher should check on them regularly. Setting up their nap cot in a quiet corner with some books, a stuffed animal, or some quiet music is an excellent way to help them relax. 

Under no circumstances should you administer any medication that has not been approved by the child’s parents or pediatrician (depending on your school’s medication policy). 


After a sick child has been picked up, the area they were resting in and any toys they were directly playing with should be washed and sanitized. At the end of the day, all toys and surfaces in the classroom should be cleaned and sanitized to reduce the risk of germs spreading to other children.