My child has a cold. When can they go back to school or childcare? Do they need a certificate?

  5 November 2020  Dr Jeannie Knapp   

By Dr Jeannie Knapp, GP and Primary Health Care Improvement GP Adviser, North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.

As restrictions ease across Victoria and children return to childcare and school, we will see a re-emergence of the usual minor viral illnesses, coughs, colds, and flus. How we in primary care manage minor viral illnesses in 2020 differs significantly to our previous practice. Children with even minor symptoms must still be tested for COVID-19, and we will have to field requests around fitness to return to school and for medical certificates.

The Department of Education and Training have developed a fact sheet (.pdf) on managing illness in schools and early childhood services during the coronavirus pandemic. It supports GPs to provide advice to parents of unwell children about school or childcare attendance.

The key points are:

  • If a child is unwell, even with the mildest symptoms, they must stay home.
  • If a child has any of the symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, they should be tested.
  • A child must stay at home until they are symptom free, even if their COVID-19 test is negative.
  • Children do not need a medical certificate before returning to school or early childhood education and care.

This article is based on advice from the Victorian Department of Education and Training, Safer Care Victoria and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.