Child illness and being in school - Public Health Dorset


Child illness and being in school

Guidance for schools around illness and school absence

We understand that schools are receiving a lot of calls and questions about the health of their pupils.

With children starting to mix together again, it is likely that they are going to get seasonal colds and coughs but not all illnesses mean they must stay off school or self-isolate.

Use our simple symptom checker at the bottom of this page to check whether your child needs to stay at home. 

We want to remind you that COVID-19 symptoms are a high temperature (hot to touch on the back or chest), a new continuous cough (continuous cough is coughing consistently for a while and not just every now and again), a loss of or change to your taste or smell.

More detail of the symptoms can be found:

Please see below of different types of illness and what action should be taken:


What to do if... Action needed Return to school... child has COVID-19 symptoms*

- Do not come to school

- Contact school to inform us

- Self-isolate the whole household

- Get a COVID-19 test

- Inform school immediately about the test result

...if the test comes back negative

If a child tests positive for COVID-19 see row below child tests positive for COVID-19

- Do not come to school

- Contact school to inform us

- Agree an earliest date for possible return. (Min 10 Days)

- Self-isolate the whole household

...when they feel better. They can return after 10 days even if they have a cough or loss of taste/smell. These symptoms can last for several weeks

All children who test positive must complete the 10-day isolation. child tests negative

- Contact school to inform us

- Discuss when your child can come back (same/next day)


...when the test comes back negative and your child feels well enough to return


*COVID-19 symptoms are: a high temperature, a new continuous cough (continuous cough is coughing consistently for a while and not just every now and again), a loss of or change to your taste or smell

Vomiting and diarrhoea

If a child has sickness and diarrhoea they should not come to school. Parents/carers should contact the school to inform them of a child’s absence and ring the school on each day of illness.

A child can return to school 48 hours after the last bout of sickness or diarrhoea. Check the schools’ sickness absence policy for more information.


If a child is poorly with symptoms of a cold such as a runny nose or sore throat,

- Check temperature and for symptoms of COVID-19

- If no COVID-19 symptoms, come to school if well enough

- If not well enough, ring on each day of illness

The child can come back to school when they feel well enough and are not showing symptoms of COVID-19

For all other advice around schools relating to COVID-19 please visit:

Fever linked with flu vaccine

The autumn term will see children having their flu vaccines at school. One of the side effects from the vaccine may be a mild fever. The information below explains what the difference is between fever from a flu vaccine and fever from COVID-19.

  • Flu vaccination may cause a mild fever (temperature slightly above normal) which usually goes away within 48 hours. This is a common, expected reaction and self isolation is not needed unless COVID-19 is suspected
  • Fever with COVID-19 is generally high, alongside some of the other symptoms: a continuous cough or loss of taste or sense of smell
  • Most children will have the nasal spray flu vaccination, side effects could include nasal congestion/runny nose, reduced appetite, feeling generally unwell and having a headache
  • Some children will have an injected flu vaccination where side effects could cause the child to feel generally unwell, shivery, achy and tired
  • After a flu vaccine symptoms usually disappear within one to 2 days without treatment but paracetamol can be given if necessary
  • Any fever after vaccination should be monitored and if parents or carers are concerned about their child’s health at any time, they should seek advice from their GP or call NHS 111

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