Flu or Flu-like illness in chronically ill or disabled children

Impact on nursery and school

Recurrent episodes of flu or flu-like illness and complications can cause some children to be off school or nursery for long periods of time. Parents talked about the importance of their children’s education and weighed up the pros and cons of sending their child to school when they were ill. Sometimes it is a whole month that Rahma’s son cannot go to school because of flu or flu-like illness. Waj’s daughter has cerebral palsy and asthma. Because of flu or flu-like illness and complications, she only went to nursery for three months during one school year. Other parents we talked to said their child was off school or nursery frequently but for shorter periods of time. Daniel was frequently off school for two, three or four days at a time.
Sarah, like Hazel noticed that as their children got older they had fewer flu or flu-like illness episodes and so they were off school for less time.
Parents appreciated being told if there were colds or flu virus going around school or nursery so that they could decide whether to send their child in. Sarah’s son is at nursery. She said, “I'd still send him in, because I think he's not going to build an immune system if he's not exposed to things as well.” Not everyone felt like this and Rebecca thought when her son starts school if there were “a class full of colds” she would keep him off school. 

Once a child starts full time school parents may struggle to decide what to do if the child has a cold. Parents told us that if the child was ill and had a temperature, they usually didn’t send them to school. Others decided, in an attempt to prevent illness developing further, to let their child rest at home for a day if they were under par.
Ruth was aware of her daughter’s pattern of illness so she knew when she might deteriorate and when to keep her off nursery. 

Good communication between parents and their children’s schools and nurseries was important. Parents talked to their child’s keyworker at nursery or teacher at school about what to do in case of deteriorating symptoms. A good relationship with the keyworker or teacher helped some parents to feel confident about taking their child to school or nursery at the beginning of an illness episode. Others preferred to keep their child at home so that they could monitor any change in their symptoms.
Getting back to school after flu or flu-like illness could be delayed because of changes in a child’s long term medical condition or disability or needing to complete a course of antibiotics. As Nia explained, teachers are not able to administer pain relief or antibiotics so although her son may be better, the practicalities of managing medicines or needing to complete a course of antibiotics can delay him returning to school.
Impact on school work

Parents were concerned about their child missing school and the impact this would have on their education. Teachers should be willing to discuss providing extra homework for the child to complete after they recover from the bout of illness. Sharon noted that secondary schools seemed to be better organised about sending work by email. Some primary schools didn’t seem to be as well organised in helping children to keep up with their work.
Frequent periods of time off school can have an effect on school work. Sharon said that Henry was missing out on structured lessons at primary school and it was hard to catch up if a new topic was introduced while he was away. He also was aware now that he took more time off school than his peers and she felt this had a negative emotional impact.

When Daniel was off school frequently, his parents felt the school should have sent him work to do at home and he got behind. Henry and Daniels’s parents said they had negative feedback from the school about their child’s attendance levels.
Also see ‘Work and finances’.

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