The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued advice for parents of children returning to school following the Christmas break amid high levels of winter illnesses including Covid-19 and scarlet fever. Many schools across the UK will reopen to pupils in the coming days after the Christmas and New Year break and cases of Covid and flu are expected to rise in the coming weeks.
Advice provided by the UKHSA includes teaching children about the importance of good hand hygiene and keeping children off from school if they are unwell. Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), 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 hand washing 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.” Professor Hopkins also urged those eligible to take up their flu jab, especially young children: “Remember that flu vaccination is still available for all eligible groups and is the best protection against the virus.
“We have seen good uptake in older age groups but vaccination among young children remains low. Flu can be very unpleasant and in some cases can lead to more serious illness.
“Getting your child vaccinated protects them and others they come into contact with, and it’s still not too late.”
Who is eligible for a flu vaccine?
The UKHSA also reminded parents and guardians that children who are eligible for the flu vaccine include:
- those aged 2 and 3 on August 31 2022
- all primary school-aged children
- some secondary school-aged children
According to the NHS, the flu vaccine is given free on the NHS to adults who:
- are 50 and over (including those who will be 50 by 31 March 2023)
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in long-stay residential care
- receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
- live with someone who is more likely to get a severe infection due to a weakened immune system, such as someone living with HIV, someone who has had a transplant, or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis