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Managing an unwell child or staff member

Unwell children and staff should stay at home and get tested. Process to follow if a staff member or child becomes unwell while at your service.

Unwell children and staff should get tested and remain at home until their symptoms resolve and seek medical assistance as required.

Services should send unwell children or staff home in accordance with Preventing infectious diseases in early childhood education and care services.

Services should refer to the managing illness in early childhood advice.

Encourage parent/carer(s) to keep children home if they are displaying any of the following symptoms:

  • fever
  • chills or sweats
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • shortness of breath
  • runny nose
  • loss of sense of smell or taste

In certain circumstances headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea may also be considered.

If a staff member or child is displaying any of the symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, they should get tested. Seek advice from a healthcare professional who can advise on next steps. You can phone the COVID-19 hotline on 1800 675 398 for help and advice. 

A medical certificate is not required for children to return to your setting after a period of illness, however they should not return until they no longer have symptoms.

Services should refer to the managing illness in early childhood advice for guidance in relation to children with persistent symptoms due to underlying conditions such as hay fever or asthma and younger children who may have prolonged post viral symptoms.

Actions required

It's critical that any staff member or child who becomes unwell while at an early childhood service gets tested and goes home. While it's unlikely that a staff member or child who is unwell with flu-like symptoms will have COVID-19, there are some sensible steps services should take while a child wait to be picked up by a parent or carer as a precaution.

Staff or children experiencing compatible symptoms should be isolated and collected

Staff or children experiencing compatible symptoms with COVID-19, such as fever, cough or sore throat, should be isolated in an appropriate space with suitable supervision and collected by a parent or carer as soon as possible. They should be encouraged to get tested and isolate at home until they receive their results.

Hygiene and use of personal protective equipment

Important actions to take include hand hygiene, physical distance and where possible putting on a surgical mask (both on staff and child where appropriate). 

Additional PPE (such as surgical mask, eye protection, disposable fluid repellent gown and gloves) may be considered where practicable when care is to be prolonged or a child has additional health needs.

Face masks should not be used in situations where an individual is unable to safely or practically tolerate a mask (for example, a child with complex medical needs, including existing respiratory needs and children under the age of 2).

Seek urgent medical attention where required and maintain health care plans

Urgent medical attention should be sought where indicated. Consider calling an ambulance.

Health care plans, where relevant, should be updated to provide additional advice on monitoring and identification of the unwell child in the context of COVID-19.

Contact parent and carers in the first instance

If a staff member is unsure whether a child is unwell, it is advisable to contact the parent or carer in the first instance to discuss any concerns about the health status of the child and, taking a precautionary approach, request the parent or carer to collect their child if concerns remain.

A trained staff member could take the temperature of the child, where appropriate, to support decision making, ensuring hand hygiene is performed before and after.

Encourage unwell individuals or their parents and carers to seek advice from a healthcare professional

Staff or children experiencing symptoms compatible with COVID-19 should be encouraged to get tested and isolate at home until they receive their test result. A medical certificate is not required to return to an early childhood setting after a period of illness. Once tested, staff and children must not return until they have received their test result and their symptoms resolve.

Follow cleaning guidance and procedures

Follow cleaning guidance according to the situation of the case. If a child spreads droplets (for example by sneezing, coughing or vomiting), clean surfaces immediately with disinfectant wipes while wearing gloves.

Testing for COVID-19

For information about where you can get tested for COVID-19 visit Getting tested for coronavirus (COVID-19).

Reviewed 17 February 2021

Coronavirus Victoria

24/7 Coronavirus Hotline

If you suspect you may have coronavirus (COVID-19) call the dedicated hotline – open 24 hours, 7 days.

Please keep Triple Zero (000) for emergencies only.

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