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Children warned to stay at home if feeling unwell, health authorities say

Government officials have also renewed calls for flu vaccination among young people and children

Daniel Reast
Monday 02 January 2023 20:39 GMT
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Dozens of children have died with serious Strep A infections this year
Dozens of children have died with serious Strep A infections this year (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Parents in England are being warned by health officials to keep children home from school if unwell and with a fever.

In a statement on Monday, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) issued advice for ‘simple steps’ to protect children and adults from high rates of seasonal flu and coronavirus.

The warning is applied to children in schools and nursery settings.

Latest figures from the government have also recorded at least 30 children have died in the UK from invasive strep A since 19 September, contributing to higher rates of illness in children and young people.

Officials have also warned of higher number of scarlet fever cases.

Responding to high rates of strep A and scarlet fever, Dr Obaghe Edeghere, incident director from the UKHSA said “We are continuing to see a rise in scarlet fever and ‘strep throat’ and this is understandably concerning for parents.

“I would stress that the condition can be easily treated with antibiotics and it is very rare that a child will go on to become more seriously ill.”

Most cases of strep A infection are mild and managed from home, however officials have urged parents to contact healthcare professionals if their child’s illness is getting worse.

Dr Edeghere listed signs to be aware of such as “feeding or eating less than normal, are dehydrated, has a high temperature that won’t go down, is very hot and sweaty or seems more tired or irritable than normal.”

NHS services are under increased pressure this winter from higher rates of seasonal flu, strep A and coronavirus (PA Wire)

In their latest statement, UKHSA chief medical adviser Professor Susan Hopkins said “It’s important to minimise the spread of infection in schools and other education and childcare settings as much as possible. If your child is unwell and has a fever, they should stay home from school or nursery until they feel better and the fever has resolved.

“Helping children to learn about the importance of good hand hygiene is also key, so practice regular handwashing at home with soap and warm water. Catching coughs and sneezes in tissues then binning them is another simple way to help stop illness from spreading.

“Adults should also try to stay home when unwell and if you do have to go out, wear a face covering. When unwell don’t visit healthcare settings or visit vulnerable people unless urgent.”

Ofsted figures have found the proportion of children off sick rose sharply to 7.5% in the week beginning 5 December, up from 6.1% in the previous week and 2.6% absent at the start of the Autumn term in September.

A&E delays killing up to 500 people a week, top health expert warns

Higher rates of seasonal flu, strep A and coronavirus are contributing to an already-stretched health service.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4 on Monday, the Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting blamed current health pressures on “more than 12 years of Conservative mismanagement.”

“People no longer feel confident that emergency medicine will be there for them when they need it”.

“Indeed, the NHS seems to be actively deterring people from going to accident and emergency departments unless it’s life threatening, because they are overwhelmed.

“And I think that’s the sense of jeopardy which is frightening so many people across the country.”

Health officials have also renewed calls for young people and children to receive flu jabs (Ben Garver/The Berkshire Eagle via AP, File)

Education leaders have welcomed the latest advice from officials, with James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, telling the BBC there “does appear to be an unusually high level of illness around at the moment, even for this time of year”.

“Advice from government is welcome to give schools and parents clarity on when children should stay at home.”

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