When to send children to school, or keep them home

When to send children to school, or keep them home image

Home » When to send children to school, or keep them home

With children now back at school and levels of winter illnesses including flu, COVID-19 and norovirus continuing to rise, Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board (BLMK ICB) is reminding parents to follow UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) simple steps to reduce viruses spreading in the community.

Spot the signs of when to keep your child at home

While children are encouraged to stay in education or childcare with symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat or slight cough (if they are otherwise well and do not have a high temperature), they should stay home from school or nursery if they’re displaying the following symptoms:

If your child has a fever and is unwell, they should stay home from school or nursery until the fever has passed and they are well enough to attend.

If your child has diarrhoea and/or vomiting, they should stay off school or nursery for at least 48 hours after their symptoms clear up – this will help stop the spread of stomach bugs.

At this time of year, other types of illnesses that circulate include scarlet fever and chickenpox, as cases usually peak in late winter and early spring.

Symptoms of scarlet fever include sore throat, fever, swollen neck glands, a bumpy rash on the tummy, flushed cheeks and ‘strawberry tongue’. If you suspect your child has scarlet fever, contact your local GP; and if diagnosed stay away from nursery or school for 24 hours after the first dose of antibiotics.

Chickenpox is highly contagious, with the most common symptom being an itchy, spotty rash. If your child has chickenpox, keep them off school until all the spots have crusted over.

Get vaccinated

Vaccination offers the best protection against flu and is given as a quick and painless nasal spray for children. However, vaccine uptake amongst pre-school children is one of the lowest, despite the illness being more serious for this ages group in some cases.

Children eligible for the flu vaccine include:

  • children aged 2 to 3 years old on 31 August in 2023
  • all primary school-aged children (reception to year 6)
  • secondary school-aged children (year 7 to year 11)
  • children aged 6 months and older with long-term health conditions

Similar to the flu vaccine, there has been a drop in uptake of routine childhood immunisations, which protect children against diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria and polio. You can take a look at the childhood vaccination schedule to make sure your child is up to date with all their vaccinations.

Dr Sanhita Chakrabarti, deputy chief medical director and clinical lead for children’s and maternity services at Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Board, said:

“With children recently returning to school it is vital that they are vaccinated against flu and infectious diseases. Getting your child vaccinated not only keeps them safe, but all your family members – particularly older grandparents who may be vulnerable to the potentially dangerous complications of flu – and the wider population.

“The fast and easy nasal spray has proven to protect children who need it most, with the NHS offering it to the majority of children this year.

“The MMR vaccine is safe and effective, offering protection against measles, mumps and rubella which are dangerous, highly infectious illnesses which can cause serious complications.  Your child should have received two doses of the MMR vaccine before reaching school age, and you can check this in their personal child health record (red book).

“Vaccination is free, safe and effective, and it can protect your child from a nasty illness this winter.”

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