Too sick to go to school?

This information has been supplied by NSW Health and is not intended to replace a visit to your doctor if anyone in your family is unwell.

Bronchitis

Symptoms

Cough is the main symptom of bronchitis. Other symptoms are a runny nose, sore throat and mild fever. The cough is often dry at first, becoming moist after a couple of days. There may be a slight wheeze and a feeling of shortness of breath.

A higher fever (typically above 39ºC) may indicate pneumonia.

School or home?

Keep home from school until they are feeling better. Antibiotics may be needed.

How can I help prevent spread?

Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing and dispose of the tissue in a rubbish bin (respiratory etiquette). Careful hand washing.

Chickenpox

(varicella)

Symptoms

Slight fever, runny nose, and a rash that begins as raised pink spots that blister and scab.

School or home?

Keep home from school for 5 days from the onset of the rash and all of the blisters have dried.

How can I help prevent spread?

Pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system (e.g. due to cancer or certain treatments) may require preventive treatment and/or exclusion for their own protection. Contact your local public health unit for advice. Chickenpox vaccination is recommended and funded for your child at 18 months of age

Conjunctivitis

Symptoms

The eye feels scratchy, is red and may water. Lids may stick together on waking.

School or home?

Keep home from school while there is discharge from the eye unless a doctor has diagnosed a non-infectious cause.

How can I help prevent spread?

Careful hand washing; avoid sharing towels. Antibiotics may be needed.

Diarrhoea (no organism identified)

Symptoms

Two or more consecutive bowel motions that are looser and more frequent than normal and possibly stomach cramps.

School or home?

Keep home from school until diarrhoea stops. (Wait 24 hours for little kids who may have trouble toileting.)

How can I help prevent spread?

Careful hand washing especially before handling food, after going to the toilet and after handling soiled clothing or linen.

Fever

Symptoms

A temperature of 38.5 oC or more in school-aged children.

School or home?

Keep home from school until  temperature returns to normal.

Gastroenteritis

(not shigella. See separate section)

Symptoms

A combination of frequent loose or watery stools (diarrhoea), vomiting, fever, stomach cramps, headaches.

Home or school?

Keep home from school until diarrhoea/vomiting stops. (Wait 24 hours for little kids who may have trouble toileting.)

How can I help prevent spread?

Careful hand washing especially before handling food, after going to the toilet and after handling soiled clothing or linen.

German measles

(Rubella)

Symptoms

Often mild or no symptoms: mild fever, runny nose, swollen lymph glands, pink blotchy rash that lasts a short time.

School or home?

Keep home from school for at least 4 days after the rash appears.

How can I help prevent spread?

Pregnant women who may have been exposed to rubella should contact their doctor regarding the need for a blood test to confirm immunity.  Immunise your child with MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella at 12 and 18 months of age under the standard vaccination schedule

Glandular Fever

(Mononucleosis, EBV infection)

Symptoms

Fever, headache, sore throat, tiredness, swollen nodes.

School or home?

They can go to school unless feeling sick.

How can I help prevent spread?

Careful hand washing, avoid sharing drinks, food and utensils, and kissing.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

(HFMD)

Symptoms

Generally a mild illness caused by a virus, perhaps with a fever, blisters around the mouth, on the hands and feet, and perhaps the nappy area in babies.

School or home?

Keep home from school until all blisters have dried up, and any rash (if present) has gone and any fever has resolved.

How can I help prevent spread?

Careful hand washing, especially after wiping the nose and using the toilet, and respiratory etiquette (covering a cough or sneeze and disposing of tissues in a rubbish bin).

Hay fever

(Allergic rhinitis) caused by allergy to pollen (from grasses, flowers and trees), dust mites, animal fur or hair, mould spores, cigarette smoke.

Symptoms

Sneezing, a blocked or runny nose (rhinitis), itchy eyes, nose and throat, headaches.

School or home?

They can go to school unless they feel unwell or are taking a medication which makes them sleepy.

How can I help prevent spread?

Hay fever is not infectious. However, good hygiene standards (hand washing and respiratory etiquette) are always recommended when coughing and sneezing.

Head lice or nits

(Pediculosis)

Symptoms

Itchy scalp (sometimes), white specks stuck near the base of the hairs; lice may be found on the scalp.

School or home?

They can go to school as long as head lice management is ongoing. See Removing head lice and nits

How can I help prevent spread?

Tell the school. Family, friends and classroom contacts should be examined and managed if infested.

Hepatitis A

Symptoms

Often none in young children; sudden onset of fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), dark urine, pale stools.

School or home?

Keep home from school for 2 weeks after first symptoms or 1 week after onset of jaundice. Contact your doctor before returning to school.

How can I help prevent spread?

Careful hand washing especially before handling food, after going to the toilet and after handling soiled clothing or linen. Close contacts may need to have an injection of immunoglobulin.

Hepatitis B

Symptoms

Often none in young children. When symptoms and signs do occur, they can include sudden onset of fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), dark urine, pale stools.

School or home?

They can go to school if they have chronic hepatitis B unless they are feeling unwell. If they have hepatitis B symptoms, contact your doctor before returning to school.

How can I help prevent spread?

Hepatitis B vaccine is given at birth, 6 weeks, 4 months and 6 months of age alone or in combination with other vaccines as part of the standard vaccination schedule. Parents of young children with chronic hepatitis B should tell the school to ensure proper care of the child and to identify situations where there is potential for transmission.

Impetigo

(School sores)

Symptoms

Small red spots change into blisters that fill up with pus and become crusted; usually on the face, hands or scalp.

School or home?

Keep home from school until one day after antibiotic treatment starts. Sores and blisters should be covered with watertight dressings until all blisters have dried up.

How can I help prevent spread?

Parents of children who may have had contact with impetigo should look for signs of infection and seek treatment if symptoms develop.

Careful hand washing especially after changing dressings. Avoid sharing toilet articles, towels, clothing or bed linen. Consider using anti-bacterial soap for bathing for two to three weeks. Avoid scratching or touching the lesions to prevent spread to other parts of the body.

Completing the recommended antibiotic course is very important.

Influenza

Symptoms

Sudden onset fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, muscle aches and headaches.

School or home?

Keep home from school until well.

How can I help prevent spread?

Careful hand washing and respiratory etiquette (covering a cough or sneeze and disposing of tissues in a rubbish bin). All children aged 6 months to less than 5 years of age, those with medical risk conditions aged 6 months and over and others at higher risk of influenza complications are eligible for free influenza vaccine under the standard vaccination schedule.

Measles

Symptoms

Fever, tiredness, runny nose, cough and sore red eyes for a few days followed by a red blotchy rash that starts on the face and spreads down the body and lasts 4 to 7 days.

School or home?

Keep home from school for at least 4 days after the rash appears.

How can I help prevent spread?

For unvaccinated family members or people who have come in contact with your child – contact your local public health unit for specialist advice. Immunise your child with MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella at 12 and 18 months of age under the standard vaccination schedule.

Meningococcal Disease

Symptoms

Sudden onset of fever and a combination of headache, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, a dislike of bright lights and sore joints. A rash of red-purple spots or bruises is common but not always present.

School or home?

Seek medical attention immediately. Patient will need hospital treatment. People with meningococcal disease can become extremely unwell very quickly

How can I help prevent spread?

Close contacts receive antibiotics as they are most likely to be carrying the bacteria in their nose and throat.

The local public health unit will provide information about the disease to contacts. All contacts should be aware of the symptoms of meningococcal disease and should see a doctor urgently if symptoms occur. A vaccine that protects against 4 types of meningococcal disease (A, C, W and Y) is recommended and funded under the standard vaccination schedule at 12 months of age and, from 2019, in Year 10 as part of the school vaccination program.

Molluscum Contagiosum

Symptoms

Multiple small lumps (2-5mm) on the skin that are smooth, firm and round, with dimples in the middle. In children, occur mostly on the face, trunk, upper arms and legs. Symptoms can last 6 months to 2 years.

School or home?

They can go to school.

How can I help prevent spread?

Careful hand washing. Avoid scratching or touching the lumps to prevent spread to other parts of the body.

Avoid sharing towels, clothing, toys and other personal items (e.g. sporting equipment) while the lumps are present. Lumps should be covered during contact sports, and with watertight bandages when swimming.

Mumps

Symptoms

Fever, swollen and tender glands around the jaw.

School or home?

Keep home from school for 9 days after onset of swelling.

How can I help prevent spread?

Immunise your child with MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella at 12 and 18 months of age under the standard vaccination schedule

Ringworm

(tinea corporis [body])

Symptoms

Small scaly patch on the skin surrounded by a pink ring.

School or home?

Keep home from school for 24 hours after fungal treatment has begun.

How can I help prevent spread?

Careful hand washing and thorough cleaning of shower bases, mats and floors adjacent to showers. Treat infected household contacts and animals to prevent reinfection.

Runny nose

School or home?

They can go to school unless there are other symptoms such as fever, sore throat, cough, rash or headache.

Small children who have trouble wiping their own nose clean may need to stay home.

How can I help prevent spread?

Careful hand washing, especially after wiping the nose and respiratory etiquette (covering a cough or sneeze and disposing of tissues in a rubbish bin).

Scabies

Symptoms

Itchy skin, worse at night. Worse around wrists, armpits, buttocks, groin and between fingers and toes.

School or home?

Keep home from school until 24 hours after treatment has begun.

How can I help prevent spread?

Wash linen, towels and clothing worn in the past 2 days in hot water and detergent. Tell the school. Family, friends and classroom contacts should be examined and managed if infested.

Shigella

Symptoms

Diarrhoea (which may contain blood, mucus and pus), fever, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.

School or home?

Keep home from school until there has not been a loose bowel motion for 24 hours.

Antibiotics may be needed to shorten the illness and reduce severity.

How can I help prevent spread?

Careful hand washing especially before handling food, after going to the toilet and after handling clothing or linen soiled with diarrhoea or vomit or cleaning surfaces.

Children and adults should not swim for 2 weeks after the diarrhoea has stopped.

Slapped Cheek Syndrome

(Parvovirus B19 infection, fifth disease, erythema infectiosum)

Symptoms

Mild fever, red cheeks, itchy lace-like rash, and possibly cough, sore throat or runny nose.

School or home?

They can go to school as it is most infectious before the rash appears.

How can I help prevent spread?

Pregnant women who may have been exposed to parvovirus should contact their doctor. Careful hand washing; avoid sharing drinks.

Usually there are no complications for a pregnant woman or her baby following exposure to a person with parvovirus B19 infection.

Whooping Cough

(Pertussis)

Symptoms

Starts with a running nose, followed by persistent cough that comes in bouts. Bouts maybe followed by vomiting and a whooping sound as the child gasps for air.

School or home?

Keep home from school until the first 5 days of an antibiotic course has been completed.

How can I help prevent spread?

Unimmunised contacts may be excluded until treated with an antibiotic. Immunise your child with combination DTPa vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis at 6 weeks, 4 months, 6 months, 18 months, 4 years and in Year 7 as part of the school vaccination program.

Worms

(Threadworms, pinworms)

Symptoms

The main sign of threadworms is an itchy bottom. Sometimes children feel 'out of sorts' and do not want to eat much. They may also have trouble sleeping, due to itching at night.

School or home?

They can go to school, but please treat.

How can I help prevent spread?

Careful hand washing - reinfection from contaminated hands is common. A number of drugs are available for treatment. The linen of an infected person should be changed daily for several days after treatment with care to avoid dispersing the eggs into the air. Tell the school as other parents will need to know to check their kids.

Letting the school know

If your child is too sick for school (or absent for any other reason, including arriving late or leaving early), please let the teacher or school admin staff know by phone, email, SMS or written note as soon as possible, and within seven days.

This information has been supplied by NSW Health and is not intended to replace a visit to your doctor if anyone in your family is unwell.

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