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common illness

We value each child’s health and do everything we can to prevent infection at nursery nursery. Children are encouraged to wash their hands regularly and practice good hygiene.  We ensure that toys and equipment are regularly sterilised and cleaned by members of the team.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, some children will pick up illnesses, many of which are contagious even before they display symptoms.  Because of this we enforce strict exclusion periods for children suffering from certain illnesses or symptoms to reduce risk of cross-infection within the nursery, both towards other children and our parents and our team.

We’ve drawn together a brief guide to some of the most common illnesses children may suffer from and have provided guidance on the enforced exclusion periods for each. You can also read more by clicking on  All of our exclusion periods have been agreed after consultation with the Department of Health.

It’s worth remembering too that:

  • Your child’s key person will always speak to you should they have concerns about your child’s health and their best interest will always be at heart.
  • If your child is suffering from an illness and has been prescribed medication by your GP, then our team can administer the medication with your written consent.   You should speak to a member of staff from your child’s room who will provide you with a medication form for completion to grant us permission to administer the medicine.
  • Children may only be administered one dose of medication at nursery in a day unless otherwise specified on the GP’s instructions.
  • Your child should have been on prescribed medication for at least 24 hours before returning to nursery to ensure that no allergic reaction is likely to occur.
  • Blanket consent may not be given for any medication. Specific instructions must be given if you wish us to administer medication.
  • Notices will be displayed around the nursery to alert you of any contagious diseases or instances of sickness or diarrhoea.

chicken pox – a mild but highly infectious condition, chickenpox causes an itchy rash that blisters and then crusts over

Most common in children under ten years of age, chickenpox is so common in childhood that 90% of adults who grew up in the UK are now immune as they have had it before.  Chickenpox can cause serious complications for pregnant women and their babies and so it is vital that children suffering from it remain away from nursery until they are clear.  There is no cure for chickenpox although symptoms can be relieved through painkillers and calamine lotion. In most people, the blisters crust up and fall off naturally within one to two weeks.

symptoms – The most common symptom is the red rash that covers the body.  Some people may only have a few spots but in others it may cover the whole body. It may appear behind the ears, on the face, over the scalp, under the arms, on the chest and stomach or on the arms and legs.  It starts as small, itchy red spots.  After 12-14 hours they develop into blisters which are intensely itchy.

exclusion period – until the spots have crusted over (minimum of 5 days)

conjunctivitis – the swelling of the transparent membrane that covers the white part of the eyeball and the inner surfaces of the eyelids.

Infective conjunctivitis is caused by a virus or bacteria and is very common in children in a nursery environment.  Antibiotics are not often prescribed for infectious conjunctivitis because they will make little difference to their recovery.

symptoms  – The symptoms normally begin in one eye and after one to two days, the other eye often becomes affected too.  Symptoms may include red and watering eyes and a sticky coating on the eyelashes.  Lubricant eye drops can be purchased over-the-counter or they may be prescribed to help ease soreness and stickiness. You can also gently clean away sticky substances with cotton wool soaked in water.

exclusion period – until the eyes are clear and free from weeping

hand, foot and mouth – a common, mild illness that is cause by a type of virus called an enterovirus.

Hand, foot and mouth is very contagious and easily spread and is common in children under the age of 10.  It is possible to catch the disease more than once but children are unlikely to catch it again during the same outbreak.  Generally, the disease is mild and short-lasting and will clear after about 7-10 days.

symptoms – start appearing three to five days after infection and last for seven to ten days. First symptoms will include fever, loss of appetite, sore throat or small red spots in the mouth, throat and skin.  After one or two days, red spots in the mouth will develop into painful ulcers, particularly around the tongue, gums and inside of the cheeks.  It may be difficult to eat, drink or swallow.  Any red spots on the skin will turn into a non-itchy rash over the next two days. The spots are flat or raised and will develop on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and between the fingers and toes.

exclusion period – until the symptoms have subsided

impetigo – a highly contagious bacterial infection on the surface layers of the skin

Impetigo most commonly affects children.  It can be easily spread in nursery where children are in close contact.   Impetigo is not serious but is highly contagious and every effort should be taken to avoid spreading it to other people such as washing hands after touching affected skin areas and not sharing towels or bed sheets.  Antibiotics are usually recommended to treat the impetigo and minimise the spreading.

symptoms – red sores usually occur around the nose and mouth however other facial areas may be affected.  The sores quickly burst, leaving thick golden crusts that, when dry, leaves a red mark that usually heals without scarring.  It is important not to touch or scratch the sores.

exclusion period – until lesions are crusted and healed

measles – a highly infectious viral illness which causes a range of symptoms including fever and red-brown spots on the skin

The most effective way of preventing measles in the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR).  Consequently, measles cases are rare but are most common among children aged 1-4 years old.  The body’s immune system will naturally fight off measles within a couple of weeks after which you typically develop an immunity to it.  However complications such as pneumonia, ear and eye infection and croup can appear.  If you suspect that your child has measles then see your GP immediately.

symptoms – Around 9-11 days after the infection, the following symptoms will appear: cold-like symptoms (runny nose, watery eyes), red eyes and sensitivity to light, a mild to sever temperature, tiny grey-white spots in the mouth and throat, tiredness and lack of energy, aches and pains, poor appetite, dry cough and a red-brown spotty rash.  These symptoms generally last up to 14 days.

The rash appears 3 to 4 days after the initial symptoms and last up to eight days. Usually starting behind the ears, the spots spread around the head and neck then to the legs and rest of the body.

exclusion period – 9 days after the rash first appears

mumps – usually affecting children, mumps is highly contagious is the most common symptom is a swelling of the glands.

The mumps virus is spread in the same way as the cold virus or flu. It can be spread through direct or indirect contact and so it is important that children carrying the virus are kept away from others as much as possible.  It is especially dangerous for pregnant women so children should not attend nursery until after the exclusion period.  People are most contagious for one to two days before the onset of symptoms and for five days afterwards.

symptoms – can develop between 15 and 24 days after being infected.  Swelling of the glands is the most common symptom of mumps and are located on either side of the face, just below the ears. usually both glands are affected but in some cases only one gland may be affected.  The swelling also causes additional symptoms such as a feeling of pain in the swollen glands and pain on swallowing. Other symptoms may include headaches, joint pain, nausea, dry mouth, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, a high temperature or fatigue.

exclusion period – eight days from when the swelling begins

sickness & diarrhoea  – gastroenteritis is inflammation of the intestinal tract which usually results in diarrhoea. Being sick or vomiting is another common symptom.

The most common organisms which cause gastroenteritis are viruses.  Children are particularly susceptible to these infections and almost every child will have had rotavirus, the most common cause, by the age of five.  Gastroenteritis is usually highly infectious.  It can be passed very easily from person to person and particularly in environments such as nursery where children are in close contact.

symptoms –  in addition to diarrhoea and vomiting, children affected by gastroenteritis may also have stomach cramps, headaches, aching arms and legs or high temperatures.  Symptoms may last as little as 24 hours or as much as seven days. Most people make a full recovery in 2-3 days

exclusion period – 48 hours after last symptoms

slapped cheek – this common childhood infection shows itself in the appearance of a bright red rash on both cheeks

Sometimes known as fifth disease and erythema infectiosum, slapped cheek syndrome can affect people of all ages.  It is caused by a virus called parvovirus B19 and you may not even realise if you have been infected with this as the symptoms are mild.

symptoms – your child may have a high temperature, sore throat or headache to begin with.  They are most contagious at this point. Up to seven days later they will develop a bright red rash on both cheeks.  Finally, the rash will spread to your child’s chest, stomach, arms & thighs. This will usually happen up to four days after the rash on their cheeks.

exclusion period – until rash has faded

head lice – are widespread in the UK and almost all schoolchildren have at least one attack, if not more. Head lice affect those with long or short, dirty or clean hair – they are not a sign of poor hygiene or dirty hair.  Head lice can be caught by direct contact or by sharing combs, brushes and hats.  Whole families are often affected.

Head lice are tiny insects that live on the head and in the hair.  They’re highly infectious and easily passed between children who tend to work closely with their heads together, at school and at play.  Infestation of any of the hairy parts of the body is also called pediculosis.  However, the type of lice found on the head are different to those that can infest the rest of the body or the pubic area.

Head lice are flat, wingless insects about 2mm to 4mm long, usually black or dark brown, which attach to the base of a hair.  They are blood-sucking insects which feed on human blood several times a day.  They stay close to the skin for moisture, food and warmth. The adult lice lay a large number of eggs, known as nits, that can be seen as tiny white/brown ovals glued firmly to the hair close to the scalp.

symptoms – a head lice infection doesn’t often cause symptoms.  When it does the main symptom is itchiness – beware a child constantly scratching his or her scalp.  Sometimes you see tiny red spots on the scalp or the lice and nits in the hair.  (Nits are the eggs or empty eggshells after the lice have hatched.)  Behind the ears is a favourite spot.

exclusion period – until hair has been treated and there are no apparent signs of live lice