Winter wellness guidance for children

Healthy young children/tamariki can have up to 8 to 12 colds or upper respiratory tract infections each year and these are a normal part of childhood.

With a rise in seasonal colds, flu and other respiratory infections occurring in our communities, you can use this guidance to help with decisions about how to manage your child’s illness, and their attendance at early learning services and schools.

  • A child should stay at home if they appear unwell or they develop one or more of these symptoms:  new onset of a runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, they are off their food and drink or show signs of feeling miserable.
  • If a child becomes increasingly unwell and/or you are concerned about their health, call your GP or Healthline on 0800 611 116 for medical advice. A child who is refusing to drink anything is likely to be very unwell.
  • If an in-person appointment is required for a child, follow your GP’s processes which will include having everyone who can practically and safely wear a mask to put one on.
  • If you or a child you are caring for develops difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, fainting or becomes unconscious, call 111 immediately.
  • For accurate and reliable information on how to manage colds and flus visit KidsHealth and Health Navigator.

COVID-19 guidance

  • If a child has COVID-19 symptoms, the child and anyone in their household with similar symptoms should be tested for COVID-19.
  • If any household members are COVID-19 positive, other household members are at high risk of becoming infected. Everyone should isolate for at least 7 days from the day that the first person receives their positive test result or becomes symptomatic (whichever is earliest).
  • All household contacts, including children, should take a rapid antigen test on day 3 and day 7, or sooner if they develop symptoms. A person who has had COVID-19 in the past 90 days, does not need to isolate again as a household contact.
  • Anyone who experiences symptoms 29 days or longer after previous COVID-19 infection should test and will need to isolate if they test positive.
  • If a child has been isolating with COVID 19 and is feeling well after 7 days, they can return to their early learning service/education facility.
  • If a child continues to be unwell and/or has symptoms after their 7-day isolation period has ended, they should remain at home to recover until 24 hours after their symptoms resolve.
  • If a child still feels unwell or their symptoms are worsening after 10 days, they should not return to their early learning service/education facility. Call your GP or Healthline on 0800 611 116 for medical advice.

Wellness indicators

  • If a child has been unwell with an illness other than COVID-19, they can return to their early learning service/education facility 24 hours after they have significantly improved and are behaving/eating normally.
  • If they still have a runny nose or dry cough without any other symptoms such as a fever, vomiting or diarrhoea, then they are unlikely to be infectious and can be considered well enough to attend their early learning service/education facility. In general, they should not be required to provide a doctor’s certificate or clearance to return.
  • A child who has a runny nose after a change in temperature (eg, moving from outdoors to indoors) or sneezes due to obvious stimuli (eg, the sun or dust) does not need to be sent home.
  • Hay fever and other allergies can show similar symptoms to the common cold such as sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose and coughing. If a child has a history of allergic symptoms and shows one or more of these symptoms, or an itchy face (especially around the eyes or throat), consider if hay fever or an allergy could be the cause. You may need to check with the child’s caregiver to confirm.

Other things you can do to help keep children healthy this winter

  • Provide children with healthy nutritious food to eat. Healthy eating supports immunity and helps our bodies to work well and feel good.
  • Support children to get enough sleep. Sleep is important for restoring energy, maintaining mental and physically wellbeing, learning, and aiding healthy growth and development.
  • Encourage and create opportunities for children to be active at home, at school, at play during the weekends and in the community to help maintain good health and wellbeing.
  • It is ok to dress children warmly and encourage them to play outdoors during the winter months. Poorly ventilated indoor environments can allow infections to spread quickly from person to person. Being outdoors helps to boost children’s immune systems through exposure to fresh air and enables them to make Vitamin D from exposure to the sun.

Here is some further guidance about how the whole whānau can stay well this winter.

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