Managing an unwell child or staff member

It's important to make sure unwell children and staff 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.

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 diarrhea may also be considered.

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

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.

Actions required

It is critical that any staff member or child who becomes unwell while at an early childhood service gets tested and returns home. While it is unlikely that a staff member or child who is unwell with flu-like symptoms will have coronavirus (COVID-19), there are some sensible steps services should take while a child awaits collection 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 coronavirus (COVID-19), such as fever, cough or sore throat, should be isolated in an appropriate space with suitable supervision and collected by a parent/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 (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 (e.g. 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 coronavirus (COVID-19)..

Contact parent and carers in the first instance

If a staff member is unsure whether a child is unwell, it is advisable in the first instance to contact the parent/carer to discuss any concerns about the health status of the child and, taking a precautionary approach, request the parent/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 coronavirus (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. However, 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 coronavirus (COVID-19)

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

If a child, student or staff member is or has had contact with a confirmed case

Specific advice has been developed for services to manage a confirmed case of coronavirus (COVID-19)