Home > Kids > Children's General Health > Childhood Illnesses > Contagious Childhood Illnesses > How Soon After Starting Antibiotics Can a Child Return to School?
|

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

How Soon After Starting Antibiotics Can a Child Return to School?

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: How soon after a young child has begun taking antibiotics should he return to school? The research I've read says that once a child has been taking the medication for 24 hours, it's okay for him to return to school. Parents in our center believe that's too soon. Please give us your expert advice.

A: It depends on the type of infection. It also depends on whether you are concerned about the spread of infection or about how comfortable the child will be.

For many of the common childhood bacterial infections that we treat with antibiotics, 24 hours of the antibiotic is enough to make sure the child is no longer contagious (able to spread the germ to others), but this is not true for all infections. Streptococcal infections (strep throat) and bacterial conjunctivitis are probably the two most common ones, and both require antibiotics for just 24 hours before a child can return to school without worrying that he will spread the infection to other children. However, pertussis (whooping cough) requires five days of antibiotics to make sure that it cannot be spread. Some intestinal infections and pneumonias (lung infections) can still be spread even after the child has finished the full course of antibiotics. Your local department of public health has printed guidelines that detail the recommendations for various types of infections.

The other factors to keep in mind when determining how soon a child should return to school are length of fever, energy level, and appetite. Even if a child has completed the appropriate amount of antibiotic to stop him from being contagious, the child may still have fever, act fatigued, or have a poor appetite. That would make him an unsuitable candidate for a full day of school. Staying at home for another day or two until he is up to full speed may be the best course of action.

Viral illnesses are actually more common and spread more readily than bacterial illness in school-aged kids. Colds and flus can wreak havoc on a classroom. There is no treatment that will make the viral illness go away sooner, and the viruses can remain in the nose and throat for days or weeks. We obviously can't keep kids at home for three weeks every time they get a cold, but a day or two when the nasal symptoms are at their peak is not a bad idea.

The bottom line is that good precautions in school and at home make sense. Frequent hand-washing by everyone, including the kids, is probably the most important thing that can be done to try to limit the spread of infection.

More on: Expert Advice

Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

Join BIC on our mission to save handwriting and Fight For Your Write! Writing helps kids become better readers, boosts their confidence and sparks their creativity. Visit BICFightForYourWrite.com to sign our petition to save handwriting!

7 Tips for Reading Aloud to Babies & Toddlers
The AAP advises reading aloud to babies and toddlers because it boosts brain power and has many other benefits. Get some tips for making the most of story time with your tot!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

How to Survive Summer Boredom
When the kids are home all day, every day, summer boredom strikes hard and fast. Learn the best summer boredom busters and tips for surviving until September.

12 Birthday Party Favors that Won't Get Thrown Away
The next time you're planning a birthday, forgo the penny candy and cheap toys. Send your guests home with one of these fun and creative party favor ideas!