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School exclusion periods

Colds and flu symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of COVID-19. Even if your child's symptoms are mild, they should be tested for COVID-19 immediately — use the Colds and Flu Symptom Checker if you're not sure what to do.

For more information, see these COVID-19 FAQs about childcare and school exclusions.

If your child has an infectious condition, you may need to keep them home from day care or school to stop it from spreading. Here’s a list of common childhood illnesses and their recommended exclusion periods. In some cases, the school or day care facility may require you to keep your child at home.

If you would like to learn more about any of these conditions, click on their names below. You can also find out what may happen if your child needs to be excluded from school for health reasons here.

Sometimes people who have been in contact with an infected child — such as friends, siblings or family members — may also need to be excluded from school or work. Your doctor can advise you about this.

Chickenpox
Common symptoms and how it's spread Chickenpox causes mild fever and a rash of red, itchy patches. These turn into fluid-filled blisters before they crust over to form scabs and eventually drop off. Chickenpox spreads through close person-to-person contact and droplets in the air (from sneezing and coughing, for example).
Is a vaccine available? Yes
Should I keep my child home from school? Yes, until all blisters have dried, which is usually around 5 days after the rash first appeared.
Colds
Common symptoms and how it's spread Common symptoms of a cold include coughing, low-grade fever, a sore throat, sneezing and a blocked or runny nose. Colds are spread through droplets in the air – from coughs or sneezes, for example – and on surfaces.
Is a vaccine available? No
Should I keep my child home from school?

No, there is no need to exclude a child with the common cold if they seem well; however, colds and flu symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of COVID-19. Even if your child's symptoms are mild, they should get tested for COVID-19 immediately and isolate at home until they have received a negative test result.

For more information see these COVID-19 FAQs about childcare and school exclusions.

Conjunctivitis
Common symptoms and how it's spread Conjunctivitis, or 'pink eye', causes redness and swelling of the outer layer of the eye and inside the eyelid. It can also cause sore and watery eyes, with pus. Conjunctivitis spreads through contact with the discharge from an infected eye, nose or throat.
Is a vaccine available? No
Should I keep my child home from school? Yes, until the discharge (pus) from their eyes has stopped — unless otherwise advised by your doctor.
COVID-19
Common symptoms and how it's spread

COVID-19 symptoms range in severity. The following symptoms are considered mild symptoms in children:

  • mild upper respiratory tract symptoms such as congested or runny nose, sneezing, or a scratchy or sore throat
  • cough with no difficulty breathing
  • not drinking their usual amount of fluid (such as water) in the past 24 hours
  • mild vomiting and diarrhoea (fewer than 4 times in the past 24 hours)
  • mild headache or body aches
  • mild fever
  • mild fatigue

It’s also possible to have COVID-19 but have no symptoms at all.

Is a vaccine available?

Yes. Children aged 5 to 11 years are eligible to receive a paediatric (child's) version of Pfizer's Comirnaty vaccine. Children aged 12 years and over are eligible to receive either the Pfizer vaccine or Moderna's Spikevax vaccine.

Should I keep my child home from school?

If your child displays symptoms of COVID-19, keep them home from school. Have them tested and isolate while waiting for the results.

If your child tests positive for COVID-19, they must stay at home. This is usually for at least 7 days from the day they had their COVID-19 test. If their symptoms worsen, contact your healthcare provider for advice.

If your child is a close contact of a COVID-19 case, keep them home from school, have them tested, isolate and follow the rules of the state or territory in which you're staying.

For more information, see these COVID-19 FAQs about childcare and school exclusions.

Diarrhoea
Common symptoms and how it's spread Diarrhoea is loose, watery stools occurring more than 3 times in 1 day. It can be caused by a virus, bacteria, parasite, food poisoning, allergy, or other conditions. Stomach cramps, nausea, a fever, headache and loss of appetite are common associated symptoms.
Is a vaccine available? No
Should I keep my child home from school? Yes, until they have not had a loose bowel motion or other symptoms for 24 hours and if there is no cause identified. They may need to stay home for 48 hours until the cause has been identified.
Gastroenteritis
Common symptoms and how it's spread Gastroenteritis, also known as ‘gastro’, can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as nausea and stomach pains. It spreads easily from having contact with an infected person (or their vomit or stools). It can also spread via contaminated food or water.
Is a vaccine available? No
Should I keep my child home from school? Yes, until they have not had a loose bowel motion or other symptoms for 24 hours and if there is no cause identified. They may need to stay home for 48 hours until the cause has been identified.
Hand, foot and mouth disease
Common symptoms and how it's spread The main symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease are fever and tiny blisters on the cheeks and gums, inside the mouth and on the hands and feet. Children pass it on easily by touching other kids, or toys that other children will play with.
Is a vaccine available? No
Should I keep my child home from school? Yes, until all blisters have dried.
Head lice
Common symptoms and how it's spread Head lice are tiny insects about the size of a sesame seed that live in the hair of humans. They bite and cause itching of the skin. Lice can be passed between people by close head-to-head contact and sharing personal items, such as combs.
Is a vaccine available? No
Should I keep my child home from school? No, as long as effective treatment begins before the next school day.
Influenza (flu)
Common symptoms and how it's spread Influenza, or 'the flu', commonly causes symptoms such as high fever, dry cough, muscle ache and fatigue. Less common symptoms include sore throat and a runny nose. Children may also have abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. It spreads from person to person through droplets in the air.
Is a vaccine available? Yes
Should I keep my child home from school?

Yes, until they are well.

Colds and flu symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of COVID-19. Even if your child's symptoms are mild, they should get tested for COVID-19 immediately and isolate at home until they have received a negative test result.

For more information see these COVID-19 FAQs about childcare and school exclusions.

Measles
Common symptoms and how it's spread Early symptoms of measles include fever, cough, feeling tired, sore throat, runny nose, discomfort when looking at light and sore, watery eyes. A rash appears after 3 to 4 days. The spots (or blotches) are red and slightly raised. Measles spreads through droplets in the air.
Is a vaccine available? Yes
Should I keep my child home from school? Yes, from the onset of symptoms to 4 days after the rash appears.
Mumps
Common symptoms and how it's spread Mumps is recognisable by the painful swellings on the side of the face under the ears. Other symptoms include headache, joint pain and a high temperature. It's spread by close contact or by coughing and sneezing.
Is a vaccine available? Yes
Should I keep my child home from school? Yes, for 9 days or until the swelling goes down (whichever is sooner).
Rubella
Common symptoms and how it's spread Symptoms of rubella, or 'German measles', include a distinctive red-pink skin rash, swollen glands (nodes), and cold-like symptoms such as a mild fever, sore head and runny nose. Rubella is spread through personal contact, or by coughing and sneezing.
Is a vaccine available? Yes
Should I keep my child home from school? Yes, until they have recovered fully, or for at least 4 days after the rash first appeared.
Scabies
Common symptoms and how it's spread Scabies is an infestation of mites (tiny insects) that burrow under the skin causing intense itching and sometimes a rash. Scabies is passed from person to person through close skin contact or the sharing of clothing, towels and bedding. It's not caused by poor personal hygiene.
Is a vaccine available? No
Should I keep my child home from school? Yes, until the day after they start appropriate treatment.
Threadworms
Common symptoms and how it's spread Threadworms, or 'pinworms', look like 1cm-long pieces of white thread. The main symptom is itching in the anal area or around the vagina. Kids are often infected by getting threadworm eggs on their hands and then putting their hands in their mouth.
Is a vaccine available? No
Should I keep my child home from school? No, exclusion is not necessary.
Whooping cough (pertussis)
Common symptoms and how it's spread Whooping cough, or 'pertussis', usually begins with a persistent dry cough that progresses to intense bouts of coughing, including a 'whooping' noise as the child breathes in. It’s passed on through close personal contact, sneezing and coughing.
Is a vaccine available? Yes
Should I keep my child home from school? Yes, until 5 days after they started antibiotics, or for 21 days from the beginning of their cough.

Sources:

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) (Staying Healthy – Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services, 5th Edition), Australian Department of Health (What you need to know about coronavirus (COVID-19))

Last reviewed: January 2022

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