A child shouldn’t go to nursery if he or she has any of the following:
Fever, irritability, lethargy, persistent crying, or difficulty breathing. All these symptoms can be signs of illness.
An upper respiratory illness, such as bronchitis or influenza. If your child has a fever, too, he should definitely stay at home. The common cold, on the other hand, isn’t reason enough to stay at home.
A gastrointestinal illness. A child with diarrhoea should stay at home for 48 hours after the last bout of diarrhoea. Also, children whose stools are bloody or have mucus in them should stay at home; it could be the sign of a viral or bacterial infection (give NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or your GP if you’re concerned). A child who is vomiting persistently should also stay at home and return after 48 hours have passed following the last bout of sickness.
A rash, though only if you’re sure it’s linked to an infection (many aren’t). If your child’s rash is not linked to a fever or other symptoms he can probably go to nursery. What’s more, if a rash is associated with an illness (usually a virus) rather than dry skin or a condition such as eczema, the peak of contagiousness has usually passed by the time the rash appears, and your child can go to nursery.
A common exception is chicken pox. Children with chicken pox can return to nursery as soon as the sores have dried and crusted over. Children with impetigo (another contagious skin disease) can go back after 48 hours of antibiotics if signs of improvemt are visible, and children with scabies can return to nursery after they’ve been treated. Children who get a rash from the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccination are not contagious.
Bacterial conjunctivitis (pinkeye) and yellow discharge from the eye. Your child can go back to nursery after 24 hours of antibiotics if signs of improvement are visible. The same is true for a bacterial throat infection. Going back to nursery, so long as your child feels well enough, is fine after 24 hours of antibiotics. A child with nonbacterial conjunctivitis who has red eyes and clear watery discharge doesn’t need antibiotics and can go back to nursery right away. A doctor will advise you on the type of conjunctivitis.
Mouth ulcers that cause excessive dribbling. Wait until your child’s doctor says he’s not infectious before you return him to nursery.
Head lice. Your child can return to nursery after he’s been thoroughly treated with a shampoo or lotion, or if you are nit-busting – thoroughly wet-combing his hair with a nit comb at least every four days.
Apart from keeping your child at home when she is ill, good hygiene, as always practised at Toddle In, will go a long way toward preventing the spread of infection. Frequent, thorough hand washing is important for your child – and the nursery’s staff and the other children. This is especially important after changing nappies, blowing noses, cleaning up any bodily fluids (urine, stools, phlegm), and before preparing food.