Chief Medical Officer urges parents to keep children home from school and childcare facilities if they are displaying new symptoms of illness

by Rose Barrett
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As schools and childcare facilities reopen, the Chief Medical Officer Professor Breda Smyth is urging parents to continue to be mindful of others when their children are sick and to keep them home from school and childcare facilities if they are displaying new symptoms of illness.

The re-opening of schools and childcare facilities this week creates an environment for increased respiratory virus transmission. We are currently seeing high levels of ‘flu and COVID-19 and although cases of RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus) appear to be decreasing, the three respiratory viruses accounted for more than 1,200 hospitalisations last week. 

This is placing significant pressure on healthcare resources, particularly hospital Emergency Departments and GP services.

Winter viruses spread easily from person to person, so the public are being urged to help reduce the spread of infection by practising good respiratory etiquette, cleaning hands, wearing masks on public transport and in crowded places and ensuring good ventilation where possible.

Those with any new ‘flu-like symptoms should also stay at home to avoid spreading infection to other potentially more vulnerable people.

Prof Smyth said: “As schools and childcare facilities re-open after the Christmas break, I am urging parents to be vigilant for symptoms of respiratory viruses in children.

“If your child has any new-onset ‘flu-like symptoms such as congestion, cough, runny nose or high temperature, parents should continue to be mindful of others and, if possible, keep their children at home from school or childcare facilities.

“Children should be kept at home for at least 48 hours after their symptoms have fully or substantially resolved.

“The vast majority of respiratory illnesses can be treated successfully at home with over-the-counter medication. There is very good advice on the HSE website  However, parents should trust their instincts and seek medical attention if required.”

This year’s ‘flu season has not yet peaked, and there is still time for people to avail of a protective vaccine which takes two weeks to become fully effective.

Prof Smyth said: “As we are still in the middle of ‘flu season, I am appealing to parents to please consider the ‘flu vaccine for your child. It’s a nasal spray and is administered free of charge by GPs and pharmacists.

“I would also encourage people to keep up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines and please make an appointment for a booster if you are eligible.”

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