Health Advice For Parents

This page has been designed specifically with parents in mind.  Below is information on some of the illnesses found in schools.

For more detailed information you can visit the Your Child At School page on the NHS Choices website.

Washing Hands and Hygiene

Effective hand-washing is an important method of controlling the spread of infection, especially colds, flu and those that cause diarrhoea and vomiting.

  • Always wash hands after using the toilet and before eating or handling food; use warm, running water and soap. Keep toilets clean.
  • Rub hands together vigorously until a lather appears and continue for at least 15 seconds ensuring all surfaces of the hands are covered. (Encourage younger pupils to sing “Happy Birthday” or “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” while washing hands to help ensure they do so for the correct amount of time.)
  • Rinse hands under warm running water and dry hands with a hand dryer or clean towel (preferably paper).
  • Discard disposable towels in a bin. Bins with foot-pedal operated lids are preferable to open topped ones.

Click to download a handy Guidance On Infection Control Poster.

Diarrhoea and sickness in children

Rotavirus gastroenteritis is caused by the rotavirus, which spreads easily between children. It is the most common cause of gastroenteritis (sickness and diarrhoea) in children and most are infected by the age of five. After infection, they are normally immune to rotavirus, so any future infection will be less severe.

Rotavirus rarely affects adults as immunity to the virus lasts a long time. Cases of gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus usually peak in winter and spring.

Good hand hygiene is important to limit spread the spread of the virus.


Head lice are tiny wingless insects that live in human hair. They are common, particularly in children. They are grey-brown in colour, the size of a pinhead when hatched and of a sesame seed when fully grown.

They cannot fly, jump or swim and are spread by head-to-head contact, climbing from the hair of an infected person to the hair of someone else.

A head lice infestation is not the result of dirty hair or poor hygiene. Head lice can affect all types of hair irrespective of its condition and length. Head lice only affect humans and cannot be passed on to animals or be caught from them.

How to spot them

In most cases, itching is the main symptom of head lice. It is not caused by the lice biting the scalp but by an allergy to the lice. However, not everyone experiences itching.

It’s not always easy to see head lice so detection combing is the best way of finding head lice. This involves using a special fine-toothed head lice comb (with tooth spacing of less than 0.3mm to trap the smallest lice) to comb through the hair. It works better on wet hair but can be used on dry hair.  Detection combs are available from pharmacies.


Head lice can usually be effectively treated using medicated lotions or by wet combing, using a specially designed head lice comb.

Wet combing can be used without medicated lotions, but needs to be done regularly and can take a long time to do thoroughly.

Medicated lotion or spray can be used as an alternative. However, no medicated treatment is 100% effective. Your pharmacist will be able to recommend an over-the-counter lotion or spray.


It’s difficult to prevent a head lice infestation. Regular detection combing – for example, on a weekly basis, is the best way to find new lice quickly.

Medicated lotions and sprays do not prevent head lice infestations and should only be used if a live louse has been found on yours or your child’s head.

Slapped Cheek

Slapped cheek, also known as fifth disease is caused by parvovirus B19. The symptoms may include a rash on the cheeks, hence it’s common name.

It is thought that 60% of all people in the UK have been infected with parvovirus B19 at some time. It usually affects children, between the ages of four and 12 and seems to have a three or four year cycle when the incidence rate increases. Once infected, people normally gain immunity.


In 20-30% of cases of slapped cheek there are no symptoms at all. In children, the symptoms often go unnoticed.

The incubation period is between four and 20 days. Physical symptoms are not usually present during the contagious stages. People infected with slapped cheek syndrome may spread it without knowing during the early part of the illness. When the rash appears the person is no longer contagious.

  • Mild fever or flu-like symptoms.
  • Headache.
  • Stuffy or runny nose.
  • Sore throat.
  • Tiredness.
  • Nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
  • Adults sometimes develop aches and pains in their joints.

A distinctive blotchy red rash may begin to appear on the face which gives the appearance of ‘slapped cheeks’. In most cases the rash is not painful. However, it may become itchy and spread to the body and limbs and can sometimes affect the palms and soles of the feet. The rash may recur some time later if there is increased exposure to sunlight or heat.


Good personal hygiene is important to stop the spread of the virus – tissues or handkerchiefs and regular washing of hands a must.


Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection. There are two types of impetigo:

  • Non-bullous impetigo accounts for over 70% of cases and causes sores which quickly rupture leaving a yellow-brown
  • Bullous impetigo causes large, painless, fluid-filled blisters.

The condition is most common in children, normally occurring between the ages of two and four. However, it may also affect adults, especially if they are living in a confined environment. Impetigo is normally not serious, although it is important to take precautions to avoid it spreading to others, especially newborn babies. Hand Hygiene is important and towels or bed linen must not be shared.

Most people are no longer contagious after 48 hours of treatment or once their sores have dried and healed.

Symptoms – non-bullous impetigo

An early sign is the appearance of red sores usually on the area around the nose and mouth. The sores quickly burst leaving thick, yellow-brown golden crusts. The crusts will then dry leaving a red mark that usually heals without scarring. The sores are not painful, but they may be itchy. It is important not to touch or scratch the sores to limit the spread to other parts of the body and to other people. Fever and swollen glands are rare but they
may occur in more severe cases.

Symptoms – bullous impetigo

Again an early sign is the appearance of fluid-filled blisters but normally on the trunk, the arms or legs. The blisters quickly spread and then will burst after several days leaving a yellow crust, which will heal without scarring. The blisters are not painful but the skin around them may be itchy. Again, it is important not to touch or scratch affected areas. Fever and swollen glands are more common in bullous impetigo.


As impetigo is highly contagious it is important to take hygiene precautions to stop the bacteria spreading. NHS choices offer the following advice:

  • Keep children off nursery, playgroup or school until the sores have stopped blistering or crusting, or until 48 hours after starting treatment.
  • Don’t share flannels, sheets or towels with infected people, and wash them at a high temperature after use.
  • Wash with soap and water and cover sore loosely with a gauze bandage or clothing.
  • Do not touch the sores.
  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Avoid contact with newborn babies until the risk of contagion has passed (which is when any rash has crusted over or after at least 48 hours of treatment with antibiotics).
  • To prevent the impetigo returning, keep cuts and scratches clean and ensure that any condition causing broken skin, such as eczema, is treated promptly.