Should my child go to school/nursery today?

It can be tricky knowing whether to keep your child off school or nursery when they're unwell.

By law if your child is aged 5 to 16 years old they must be in full-time education (at school or at home). It's important to phone school or nursery the first morning and let them know if you are keeping your child at home and the reason they won’t be in.

Missing a lot of school because of ill-health can have a big impact not only on your child’s education, but also on how they feel about school. It may affect their confidence, make them feel socially isolated and they may feel nervous about going back to school.

If your child is well enough to go to school but has an infection that could be passed on, such as worms or head lice, let their teacher know.

The advice below is based on government guidelines. Some schools and nurseries may have their own rules. If these rules are causing problems and are different to those below then it may be worth directing your child's school or nursery to the official guidelines by the UK Health Security Agency.

Your child can go to school or nursery with the following illnesses:

They should be discouraged from rubbing their eyes and hands washed regularly to prevent further spread of infection.

For more information go to Conjunctivitis.

All of these conditions are infectious but they are also very common and the chance of passing them on to others is small.

Simple steps such as good hand washing, avoiding sharing baths/towels and encouraging your child not to scratch/pick at the affected area will help prevent the spread.

For more information on Hand, foot and mouth, Warts and Verrucae, Athletes Foot, Molluscum Contagiosum.

  • Children with headache, earache or stomach ache can go to school. Just let the staff know they have felt unwell
  • Give paracetamol and plenty of fluids to drink
  • If headache, earache or stomach ache persist... seek advice

For more information Earache and/or Tummy Ache.

Children can go to school with head lice but they must be treated for the condition to prevent further spreading. 

Children can go to school.

You can buy medicine (mebendazole) for threadworms from pharmacies for children over 2 years old. If you need to treat a child under 2, or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding you may need to speak to a GP.

Your child may be able to go to school or nursery with the following illnesses (if they are well enough):

Children can be given paracetamol if needed, plenty of fluids to drink and can be sent to school.

If your child is asthmatic, remember they may need their blue inhaler more often.

Due to Covid19, a consistent cough should be considered a major symptom, and you should follow the Covid19 guidance as seen here.

For more information go to Coughs and Colds. 

Can go to school if the rash is covered by clothing or a dressing.

Children can be given paracetamol if needed for pain relief, plenty of fluids to drink and can be sent to school

For more information on Sore Throat.

Your child will need to stay off school or nursery with the following illnesses:

  • To make your child more comfortable, you may want to lower their temperature using paracetamol (calpol) or ibuprofen
  • Keep your child off school until their fever goes away
  • If the child's high temperature continues for five days or more, seek advice

For more information on High Temperature/Fever.

Due to Covid19, a high temperature should be considered a major symptom, and you should follow the Covid19 guidance. 

  • There is no precise time period. Children with symptoms of flu are advised to remain at home until recovered, e.g until their fever has settled.

Find out more about the Flu Vaccine for Children.

For more information on High Temperature/Fever.

  • Children can return to school 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting

For more information on Diarrhoea and Vomiting.

Measles

  • Children can go back to school 4 days after the rash has started

For more information on Measles.

Chicken Pox

  • Cases of chicken pox are generally infectious from 2 days before the rash appears to 5 days after the onset of the rash
  • Although the usual exclusion period is 5 days, all lesions should be crusted over before children return to nursery or school

For more information on Chickenpox.

German Measles (rubella)

  • Children can go back to school 5 days after the rash has started. Please let the school know, as pregnant members of staff may be at risk.

For more information on German Measles (Rubella).

Note: Measles, Mumps and German Measles (Rubella) (MMR) is a notifiable disease.

All children over the age of one should have the MMR immunisation to protect them from measles, mumps and rubella.

Children can go back to school / nursery 5 days after the start of swollen glands

All children over the age of one should have the MMR immunisation to protect them from measles, mumps and rubella.

For more information on Mumps.

Children can go back to school / nursery 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment.

If no antibiotics have been given, your child will remain infectious for 2 to 3 weeks.

For more information on Scarlet Fever.

Children can go back to school / nursery 2 days after starting antibiotics. Non infectious coughing may continue for many weeks.

If no antibiotics are given, your child will remain infectious for 21 days from the onset of illness.

Children should be immunised against whooping cough in their first year of life.

For more information on Whooping Cough.

Children can go back to school / nursery when their lesions are crusted or healed, or 2 days after starting antibiotics.

For more information on Impetigo.

  • Children can go back to school after the first treatment.
  • Others at home should be treated.

If your child tests positive for COVID19, they should stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 3 days after they took the test. They can then return to school/nursery as long as they feel well enough to do so, and do not have a temperature.

Children and young people who live with someone who has a positive COVID19 test result should continue to attend school/nursery as normal.

Read the government guidance on children who test positive for Covid19. 


If possible try to time your child's medication so that it does not need to be taken during school hours or at nursery. You should ask school or nursery about their own policies / rules around medication. 

Children can go to school or nursery when they are taking medication if:

  • The child's parent/carer has given written permission
  • The medicine is in its original container (except insulin which may be in a pen or pump)
  • It is clearly labelled with the dose and frequency
  • It is in date. Make sure you know when your child’s medication is going out of date and, if needed, replace it.
  • Any left over medication is collected when no longer needed

Where possible children should:

  • Know where their medication is and who to ask when needed
  • Be allowed to carry their own medication or have easy access to it. This is important for medications that may be needed in an emergency e.g. asthma inhalers
  • Take their medication themselves if able with appropriate supervision

Over the counter (OTC) medicines
OTC medicines (e.g. paracetamol, hay fever medication) have clear labelling which allows them to be given safely in nursery/school. It must be in the original container (including any patient information leaflet if provided). Please do not make a GP appointment to try and get these medications on prescription, you will be advised to get this from the pharmacy directly. If your child's school or nursery says that they are unable to give over the counter medication without a prescription, this is incorrect. They may ask for written or verbal permission stating the medication and dose to be given.

Further information:
Guidance on conditions for which over the counter items should not routinely be prescribed in primary care

Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions

Further information

You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

All community pharmacies across England are required to be Healthy Living Pharmacies. This means that they are able to offer advice about a range of healthy living matters which includes eating a healthy diet. They can provide information leaflets and give parents/carers and young people more information about other organisations that might be able to also help them with healthy eating.

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns, or to the Community Paediatricians, or the child and adolescent mental health services.

 

Contact your local Health Visiting Team:

Bradford Health Visitors or call - 01274 221223

Wakefield Health Visitors or call - 01924 310130

Craven Health Visitors or call - 01423 544265

Leeds Health Visitors or call - 0113 843 5683

Calderdale Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Kirklees Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information about what Health Visitors do: What does a health visitor do?

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.

 

Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Contact your local school nursing team:

Bradford School Nurses01274 221203

Wakefield School Nurses01924 310130

Leeds School Nurses - 0113 843 5683

Calderdale School Nurses030 3330 9974 (local rate number)

Kirklees School Nurses0300 304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

All children should be registered with a GP. Anyone in England can register for free with a GP surgery. You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.

How to find your local GP.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Please note, the online version of NHS 111 is only recommended for children over the age of five. If your child is under five years old, please phone 111.

NHS 111 can also direct you to your nearest urgent treatment centre (minor injuries unit or walk-in centre).

Find your local urgent treatment centre.

When to visit an urgent treatment centre.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as:

  • loss of consciousness
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • major trauma such as road traffic collisions

If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance

Information in this guide is taken from the Public Health England guidelines “Health protection in schools and other childcare facilities: A practical guide for staff on managing cases of infectious diseases in schools and other childcare settings.

For more information, click here.

This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across West Yorkshire with consent from the Hampshire development groups.