Photo: Matteo Bagnoli via Flickr Creative Commons

As a working parent, you may need to make a swift decision in the morning about whether to send your sick child to school or skip work to stay home with them. While the question might be easy to answer for some, many working parents have differing opinions. A new national poll of 1,442 parents from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health shows the top factors in parents’ decision to keep an ill child home from school.

Here are some of their findings:

  • 75% of parents have reported using at least one sick day a year to stay home with their child.
  • Most parents (80%) are not likely to send a child to school with diarrhea, but have less agreement about vomiting (58%) or a slight fever but acting normally (49%).
  • About 16% of parents will have a child stay home if their only symptom is red watery eyes but no fever, and fewer parents (12%) will have a child stay if they experience just a runny nose, dry cough with no fever.

“Parents often have to make a judgment call about whether their child’s sickness warrants staying home,” says lead author Gary Freed, M.D., M.P.H. “We found that the major considerations were whether attending school could negatively impact a child’s health or the health of classmates.”

Other than the risk of getting peers sick and the kid’s current health state, other coordination comes into play.

  • 18% of parents say not being able to find someone to stay home with their sick child is a very important factor. This is less of an issue as children get older, and 32% of parents allowing older children to stay home alone when sick.
  • 11% of parents cite not wanting to miss work as very important

It’s suggested that a phone call or visit to your kid’s health care provider is made before deciding whether a child stays home or goes to school.

Are you a working parent? What’s your usual plan when the little one is sick? Let us know in the comments below!