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Information about Respiratory Infections, including COVID-19

During the autumn and winter months there is usually an increase in respiratory infections which can spread easily between people. These include the common cold, COVID-19, flu, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). Symptoms of respiratory infections can be very similar, and it is not possible to tell which infection your child might have based on symptoms alone. These infections usually pass within 1 to 2 weeks and symptoms can usually be treated at home. A pharmacist can advise on treatments to relieve symptoms, such as decongestants and nasal sprays.

Children and young people with mild, respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat, or slight cough, who are otherwise well, can continue to attend their education or childcare setting. Children and young people who are unwell and have a high temperature should stay at home and avoid contact with other people, where they can. They can go back to school, college, or childcare, and resume normal activities when they no longer have a high temperature, and they are well enough to attend.

Most people in England can no longer get free COVID-19 tests, and there is no requirement for people to test if they have symptoms unless the below applies:

  • They have a health condition which means they are eligible for COVID-19 treatments (NHS-Treatments for COVID-19)

It is not recommended that children and young people are tested for COVID-19 unless directed to by a health professional.

If a child or young person (aged 18 years and under) has a positive COVID-19 test result they should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 3 days after the day they took the test, if they can. After 3 days, if they feel well and do not have a high temperature, the risk of passing the infection on to others is much lower. This is because children and young people tend to be infectious to other people for less time than adults.