When should you keep your sick child away from school?

It’s an age-old question that many parents still ask.

Pediatrician Perri Klass gives her take in a NY Times column. In general, you can’t prevent every child who’s shedding virus from going to school, as “that’s everybody all winter long.”

The only confirmed way to prevent the transmission of infection is hand-washing, a habit that should be regularly taught and enforced.

Dr. Klass’ bottom line: “Keep your child home from school if there’s fever, or if the child feels too crummy to participate “” but don’t worry so much about the runny nose in the row behind.”

Keeping children up-to-date with immunizations will also help, as well as instituting infection control processes normally found in hospitals, including, “dispensers for hand sanitizer, faucets that turn on automatically, bathroom doors that open when you approach them “” all the strategies to reduce the chance that viral particles will make it onto a child’s hand, and from there to the receptive epithelium of the nose or the eyes.”

I wonder if cash-strapped schools are ready to make that kind of commitment, as it’s probably cheaper to simply keep the symptomatic kids away from class.