It can be tricky deciding whether or not to keep your child off school, nursery or playgroup when they're unwell.
There are government guidelines for schools and nurseries about managing specific infectious diseases at GOV.UK. These say when children should be kept off school and when they shouldn't.
If you do keep your child at home, it's important to phone the school or nursery on the first day. Let them know that your child won't be in and give them the reason.
If your child is well enough to go to school but has an infection that could be passed on, such as a cold sore or head lice, let their teacher know.
Other illnesses-Follow this advice for other illnesses:
Coughs and colds
Encourage your child to throw away any used tissues and to wash their hands regularly.
If your child has a high temperature, keep them off school until it goes away.
If your child has chickenpox, keep them off school until all the spots have crusted over.
This is usually about 5 days after the spots first appeared.
There's no need to keep your child off school if they have a cold sore.
Encourage them not to touch the blister or kiss anyone while they have the cold sore, or to share things like cups and towels.
You don't need to keep your child away from school if they have conjunctivitis.
Do get advice from your pharmacist. Encourage your child not to rub their eyes and to wash their hands regularly.
If your child has mild symptoms, such as a runny nose, sore throat, or slight cough, and feels well enough, they can go to school.
Your child should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if they have symptoms of COVID-19 and they either:
have a high temperature
do not feel well enough to go to school or do their normal activities
What to do if your child has tested positive
Your child is no longer required to do a COVID-19 rapid lateral flow test if they have symptoms. But if your child has tested positive for COVID-19, they should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 3 days after the day they took the test.
If your child has an ear infection and a high temperature or severe earache, keep them off school until they're feeling better or their high temperature goes away.
Hand, foot and mouth disease
If your child has hand, foot and mouth disease but seems well enough to go to school, there's no need to keep them off.
Encourage your child to throw away any used tissues straight away and to wash their hands regularly.
Head lice and nits
There's no need to keep your child off school if they have head lice.
You can treat head lice and nits without seeing a GP.
If your child has impetigo, they'll need treatment from a GP, often with antibiotics.
Keep them off school until all the sores have crusted over and healed, or for 48 hours after they start antibiotic treatment.
Encourage your child to wash their hands regularly and not to share things like towels and cups with other children at school.
Health services across the country are starting to see an increase in the number of cases of measles.
Vaccination against measles (MMR)
The most important thing to help prevent the spread of measles is to ensure that everyone is vaccinated.
It is important to have the MMR vaccine and we are asking you to encourage parents / guardians to take up the offer of an MMR vaccine if their children are not fully vaccinated.
The free MMR vaccine is a safe and effective way of protecting against measles, as well as mumps and rubella. The best way to prevent children getting measles is to make sure they have their two MMR vaccines on time – the first at 1 year of age and the second at 3 years, 4 months.
If parents / guardians and their children have missed these vaccines, it’s not too late. If parents / guardians are unsure if their child has received the MMR vaccine, they should check the ‘Red Book’ which is updated when vaccinations have been given or contact their GP practice.
Parents / guardians can ask for the free vaccine from their GP if they or their children aren’t up to date.
For more information on the MMR vaccination, visit: www.nhs.uk/mmr.
You may find the links below helpful for parents / guardians. They include information about measles and MMR leaflets which you can either download or order free printed copies of. Translated versions are also available.
- Measles: don't let you child catch it flyer (for schools) – various translations available here.
- MMR for all: general leaflet - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) – translations available on the same page.
In the first instance, parents / guardians should contact their GP practice to arrange an MMR vaccination
The Sheffield School Age Immunisation Service provides some clinics. Parents / guardians are advised to follow the link below for further information and to check the vaccinations available for specific age groups.
Symptoms of Measles
Although the health risk to children is low, measles spreads very quickly and easily. As a precautionary measure, it is helpful to remind parents / guardians of the symptoms of measles to be aware of and to ask them to check that they and their children have had two doses of the free MMR vaccine, which gives lifelong protection against measles, mumps, and rubella.
Parents / guardians are being advised to watch out for the symptoms of measles in their children and act if they suspect they have the infection. Measles usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash which usually starts on the face or behind the ears a few days later. Some people may also get small spots in their mouth.
The first symptoms are:
- high fever
- sore, red, watery eyes
- aching and feeling generally unwell
- a blotchy red / brown rash on white skin - it may be harder to see or more subtle on brown and black skin
Anyone with symptoms that could be measles is advised to stay at home and phone their GP or NHS 111 for advice, rather than visiting the surgery or A&E.
This is because measles spreads very quickly and easily and so it is important to try and prevent the illness spreading further.
People with symptoms should also especially try to stay away from areas where they could come into contact with vulnerable people such as schools, nurseries, or care homes.
They should stay away from GP surgeries and hospital emergency departments as they could spread the illness to vulnerable people.
If it is absolutely necessary for them to bring their child into their GP surgery, a walk-in centre or a hospital emergency department, they should not use public transport to get there as they will risk infecting others. They should ask NHS 111 or 999 for help with transport if they need to be seen by a doctor.
As soon as they arrive, they should inform reception that they are infectious so that they can be kept away from other people to minimise the chances of the infection spreading.
If your child has ringworm, see your pharmacist unless it's on their scalp, in which case you should see a GP.
It's fine for your child to go to school once they have started treatment.
If your child has scarlet fever, they'll need treatment with antibiotics from a GP. Otherwise they'll be infectious for 2 to 3 weeks.
Your child can go back to school 24 hours after starting antibiotics.
Slapped cheek syndrome (fifth disease)
You don't need to keep your child off school if they have slapped cheek syndrome because, once the rash appears, they're no longer infectious.
But let the school or teacher know if you think your child has slapped cheek syndrome.
You can still send your child to school if they have a sore throat. But if they also have a high temperature, they should stay at home until it goes away.
A sore throat and a high temperature can be symptoms of tonsillitis.
You don't need to keep your child off school if they have threadworms.
Speak to your pharmacist, who can recommend a treatment.
Vomiting and diarrhoea
Children with diarrhoea or vomiting should stay away from school until they have not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least 2 days (48 hours).