Knowing if your child is well enough to go to school — guidance for parents and caregivers

Going to school every day is important for all school aged tamariki (children). It helps build their confidence and social skills, and to achieve their education and life ambitions. This information helps you decide when it is okay to send your child to school, when you should keep your child at home and when you should contact a health professional for advice.
  • If your child tests negative for COVID-19 and they do not have any symptoms of concern, it is okay to send them to school if all of these apply:

    • they have not had a fever for 24 hours
    • they have not used medicine to reduce their fever for 24 hours, like paracetamol or ibuprofen
    • they only have mild symptoms such as a mild cough, headache, or runny or blocked nose
    • they appear well — they are happy, eating and drinking normally, and can easily focus on learning.

    Symptoms of concern

    Even though your child may seem well enough to attend school, it is still possible they could have an infectious illness they could pass on. Remind them to cover coughs and wash their hands regularly to help reduce spreading germs to others.

    If you are not sure if your child has COVID-19, see the information on these pages:

  • If your child has a history of hay fever or allergies and they develop their usual symptoms — sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, coughing or an itchy face — they can go to school.  

    They should continue to take their usual allergy medication (antihistamines). If your child’s allergies are affecting them, let your child's teacher know.

    If your child only has a runny nose after a change in air temperature, for example, moving from outdoors to indoors, or they only sneeze because of the sun or dust, they do not need to be kept home from school.

  • Most skin problems will get better on their own and do not require treatment.

    You can send your child to school if they have insect bites, cuts, scratches, grazes or eczema as these conditions are not infectious.

    The KidsHealth website has information about skin problems in children. This will help you identify and manage skin infections, and make decisions on when your child can return to school.

    Skin problems in children — KidsHealth

  • If your child’s symptoms become worse or more frequent, consider if you need to keep them at home and whether they need health care.

    If they have worsening respiratory symptoms, it is recommended they test for COVID-19 with a RAT.

    If you ever feel worried about your child’s health, contact your doctor or healthcare provider. You can also call Healthline anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for free health advice, treatment, and information about what to do next.

When to keep your child home to get well, and for how long

You should keep your child at home from school if they are too sick to learn and need time to rest and recover.  

You should also keep them at home if they have:

Infectious diseases

Most childhood illnesses get better on their own, but if your child becomes increasingly unwell or you are worried, get health advice.

Who to contact for health advice

  • If your child tests positive for COVID-19, it is recommended that they isolate for at least 5 days, even if they only have mild symptoms, starting at Day 0. Day 0 is the day their symptoms started or when they first tested positive, whichever came first.

    Your child should not go to school.

    If you have COVID-19

  • After having COVID-19, your child should be okay to return to school after completing their recommended isolation as long as they do not have symptoms anymore, or they only have mild symptoms which are improving and they are feeling well.

    Some children may need additional time at home to recover.

    If you still feel unwell at the end of your isolation period

  • If your child tests negative for COVID-19, they are not a household contact and they feel well enough, they can go to school.  

    If their symptoms continue or get worse, they should retest in 24 and 48 hours.

    If they end up testing positive, it is recommended they isolate for at least 5 days and follow the guidance for people with COVID-19. 

    If you have COVID-19

  • If your child is a household contact, they can go to school if they do not have any COVID-19 symptoms and are feeling well.

    If they develop any symptoms of COVID-19, it is recommended that they stay home for at least 48 hours and test with a RAT at the start and end of the 48 hour period.  

    If both RAT tests are negative, their symptoms are minor and they are feeling reasonably well, it is unlikely your child has COVID-19 and they can go back to school. However, if they still feel unwell they should continue to stay at home until they are better.

    If they end up testing positive, it is recommended they isolate for at least 5 days and follow the guidance for people with COVID-19. 

    If you have COVID-19

<h3>Symptoms of concern</h3>
<p>Keep your child at home if they have any of the following symptoms.</p>
  • If your child has a fever, you should keep them home until all of these apply:

    • their temperature has returned to normal (less than 38°C) without needing to use medicine to reduce it, like paracetamol or ibuprofen
    • they are feeling well and happy within themselves again.

    Most children with a fever can be cared for at home. However, if your child becomes more unwell or you are worried about them, get health advice urgently.

    Who to contact for health advice

    Symptoms to watch out for are:

    • severe headache
    • sleepiness (hard to wake), seeming floppy or confused
    • a new rash
    • your child is feeling very unwell, upset or unsettled.

    Meningitis is a very rare but serious cause of fever in children. 


    The KidsHealth website has more information on fever, and when to take your child to see a doctor.

    Fever — KidsHealth NZ

  • Gastro (also known as a tummy bug, rotavirus or norovirus) is an illness caused by an infection in the gut. Symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and fever.

    Gastro can spread easily to others, so your child should stay home if they are vomiting or have diarrhoea. 

    If your child is drinking well, they probably will not need to see their healthcare provider. 

    Who to contact for health advice

    When your child can return to school

    Your child can return to school after 48 hours (2 days) have passed since the last time they vomited or had diarrhoea.

  • You should keep your child at home if they need pain relief for their throat to feel comfortable. Pain relief includes paracetamol or ibuprofen. Make sure to give the correct dose for your child according to their weight or age.

    If your child is suffering from a sore throat and is of Māori or Pacific ethnicity, contact your healthcare provider to arrange a throat swab or to be treated for possible strep throat. Māori and Pacific children in Aotearoa New Zealand are at greater risk of developing rare, but serious complications from strep throat, such as rheumatic fever or kidney disease.

  • School sores (impetigo) is a common skin infection caused by bacteria. Symptoms are red sores or blisters, which burst to leave crusty, golden-brown patches. The sores can be itchy and affect the face and hands, but they can appear elsewhere.

    Other skin infections can also show similar symptoms. If your child has sores that are red, swollen, oozing, weeping or blistered, or that feel hot to the touch, you should keep them at home. 

    As impetigo is very infectious, it is important any sores are kept covered until they are healed. For any skin infection, it is important you contact your healthcare provider for advice on whether your child needs antibiotics.


    When your child can return to school 

    Your child can return to school:

    • if their sores are covered and healing
    • it has been 24 hours since they started antibiotics
    • as directed in the guidance for infectious diseases.

    Infectious diseases — KidsHealth

  • If your child develops a new rash, you may need to keep them at home from school.   

    Most of the time a child with a rash will not need to see a doctor. However, there are some rashes which are more serious and may need treatment to heal.

    Childhood rashes — Healthify

    If your child gets a new rash and any of the following apply, you should get health advice urgently.

    • They appear unwell — they have a fever, headache, are drowsy or appear to be very sick, upset or unsettled. 
    • They have been in contact with someone with measles or chickenpox, or have recently returned from overseas, especially if they are not fully immunised against these illnesses.

    • Measles
    • Chickenpox
    • Who to contact for health advice

    Meningitis is a rare but very serious cause of a new rash.  A meningitis rash starts out looking like small pin pricks, but it can turn into red or purple bruise-like blotches. 


  • Head lice (nits) are common in children because of how close they are together at school. Nits are small insects that lay their eggs on strands of hair. Scratching can be a sign that a child has them.

    Children with nits should stay at home from school until treatment has started.

    Head lice (nits)

    Scabies is a very itchy skin rash that is caused by a reaction to a tiny mite that burrows under your skin. Scabies is easily spread between people through close skin contact, shared bedding or clothing. This type of rash needs treatment to get better. If a child has scabies, they can go back to school 24 hours after their first treatment.


    For other skin problems in children, use the guidance on the KidsHealth website to help you identify and manage skin infections, and make decisions on when your child can return to school.

    Skin problems in children — KidsHealth


  • A child should not be at school if they are:

    • wheezing or struggling to breathe (unless they can get quick relief with prescribed medicine, like an inhaler)
    • coughing or sneezing frequently, and it is making it hard for them to concentrate and learn.

    If your child is struggling to breathe, get urgent health advice.

    When your child can return to school

    Most coughs will get better on their own, but it can take many weeks for your child to fully recover. A child who has a lingering cough, but is otherwise well, can return to school.

Infectious diseases that can spread easily at school

There are many infectious diseases that can spread easily at school where there are a lot of people together in crowded and confined spaces, like classrooms.

You should always keep your child at home if your healthcare provider or local public health service tells you to do so to prevent the spread of an infectious disease at school. 

This guide helps you understand:

  • how these illnesses spread
  • the symptoms to look out for
  • how long your child should stay home to prevent spreading the illness to others.

Infectious diseases — KidsHealth (external link)

Sending your child back to school

As soon as your child is well enough to return to school, it is important that they attend to be with their peers and get back to learning. If your child cannot manage full days to begin with, discuss a transition plan with their school.

In general, a doctor’s certificate or clearance should not have to be provided for your child to go back to their school after being unwell. 

How to keep your whānau healthy

There are simple things you and your whānau can do to stop the spread of infectious diseases and illnesses at home, school and work.

These include:

  • immunise against infectious diseases
  • keep hands clean
  • stay at home when sick
  • wear a face mask
  • cover coughs and sneezes
  • improve ventilation
  • keep household surfaces clean.

Healthy Habits

  • If you or someone in your whānau needs to see a doctor, contact your local healthcare provider to arrange an appointment.  You can also contact or visit your local community pharmacy to ask for advice. Healthpoint has details of services and opening hours.


  • If you can’t access a doctor or you don’t have one, you can call Healthline on 0800 611 116 anytime 24/7 for free health advice, treatment and information about what to do next. Interpreter support is available.

  • In any critical or life-threatening emergency call 111 from any phone, or go to your nearest hospital emergency department (ED). This includes:

    • heavy bleeding
    • severe pain (particularly chest pain)
    • difficulty with breathing
    • severe headache
    • sleepiness (hard to wake) or seeming floppy and confused
    • severe allergic reactions
    • bad burns
    • mental health emergencies.

Online health information and self help resources


A comprehensive resource on children's health issues in Aotearoa, offering advice on a wide range of topics including communicable diseases.


General health-related information and self-help resources, plus specific details on conditions and diseases.


Home to a wide range of health resources, including information on preventing and managing conditions and diseases.

Healthcare services and contacts

Health information services and support

Learn about healthcare services and support available in Aotearoa. This includes online services, phones services, when to get help, and what our health professionals do.

Find the right healthcare for you and your whānau

There are many ways you can get the right care and advice for you and your whānau when you feel unwell, have an injury or a health concern.

What different healthcare providers do

Find out what different healthcare providers offer, including general practices, hospitals and emergency departments. There are also healthlines you can call for free advice.

Anxiety and school attendance

Anxiety is a normal response to situations that are new or stressful. Young people can feel anxious about school for a lot of different reasons.

It is not unusual for tamariki to feel worried when starting a new school, about something that is happening at school, during exams, or going back to school after a long absence. They might also be worried about making friends, fitting in, finding relationships with peers or teachers difficult, finding schoolwork or lessons confusing, or feeling pressured to learn in a certain way.

Sometimes going through difficult experiences outside of school, such as bereavement, an illness in the family, or being a young carer can also make it harder for a child to feel settled at school.

If your child is feeling anxious about school, or not able to go, it can be tiring, stressful and worrying for both of you.

  • Common ways children might show they are feeling anxious about school include:

    • not wanting to get up and get ready
    • saying they can’t go
    • worrying a lot about small issues, such as having the right equipment for a lesson
    • feeling sick, or having stomach aches or headaches
    • not sleeping well
    • not doing schoolwork, or their progress starts dropping
    • being angry or upset, or acting out – at school or at home
    • withdrawing – seeming low, quiet, or sad.
  • It is important to try to find out what is worrying your child and to do this in a supportive and calm way. Whānau and schools should work together to understand and support tamariki to get back to school.

    There may be changes that can be made at school to help with your child's return to school. Consider:

    • working with the school to identify what support is available at school
    • identifying a friend or person at school who can act as a support person - this could also be a trusted adult at their school.

    There are also things that can be done at home to support your child to feel ready to get back to school:

    • creating a morning routine
    • coming up with ideas together for how to manage your child’s anxiety
    • encouraging them to do things that help them relax (e.g. listening to music, playing sport, going for a walk, drawing)
    • recognising and rewarding their small steps and achievements
    • taking the pressure off if they are having a bad day - you can always try again tomorrow.

    It is important to keep in mind that avoiding situations that cause anxiety can make a person’s anxiety feel worse.

  • There are many resources and services available to help people overcome anxiety.

    Online resources are great for mild to moderate levels of anxiety, and they provide helpful tools and advice to manage it. Some helpful online resources include:

    Aroā Wellbeing- a website created by rangatahi (youth) for rangatahi that provides tools and links to a wide range of resources to help.

    Access & Choice - a website created by Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora that includes links to a wide range of free to access digital, telehealth and primary mental health services for all ages.

    Mental health for kids – key points about mental health for tamariki

    Mental Health Services- Your mental health matters. There are a range of resources and services available to help, including phone numbers, online services and information, and face to face support.

    If you need help with parenting, phone the Healthify Parenting Helpline on 0800 568 856 for free help and advice.

  • Some schools have school-based health services, access to Awhi Mai Awhi Atu | Counselling in schools, or other mental wellbeing supports. Talk to your school about what options may be available to help your child.

    If your child is experiencing severe anxiety or other mental health issues that are preventing them from participating in school and other normal activities, you should talk to your healthcare provider to consider a referral to specialist Infant, Child, and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

    Who I should contact for health advice

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