15 Aug 2022

ANSWERED: Should you send your child with a health condition back to school?

The HSE has said that most children with underlying health conditions should return to school despite the concerns of some parents. 

In its latest interim guidance, the HSE said: "It is now difficult to justify cocooning in most children with underlying conditions. Long-term cocooning of children with complex medical needs is likely to adversely affect them and may outweigh the potential risk of infection," the HSE says in light of the current knowledge of Covid-19.

"For children with profound immunodeficiency/immunosuppression like ongoing or recent cancer treatment, their individual risk should be assessed by their treating team and consideration given to the possible necessity of avoiding school," the advice continues.

"For all other children, care should continue to be taken to reduce transmission through the measures promoted by the HPSC, including handwashing and social distancing by all household members."

What about school staff?

For staff members, the HSE has advised anyone in an extremely medically vulnerable category to continue working remotely. This category includes the over-70s, transplant recipients and those with severe respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis and severe asthma.

"It also includes people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy; undergoing radiotherapy for lung cancer; and people with leukaemia and other blood cancers “who are at any stage of active treatment."

School staff facing or recovering from surgical treatments are being advised to cocoon for about two weeks.

"Patients who have had recent cancer surgery should follow the advice of their surgical specialist, as to how long to follow cocooning recommendations post-surgery and when it is reasonable to return to the workplace.

"Those who have a past history of cancer do not need to be excluded from the workforce, unless due to another significant comorbidity."

In terms of reassurance, the HSE has said, "from what we know to date on children and coronavirus, children have rarely been
the person who brought COVID-19 into a household when household spread has happened and children are
not more likely than adults to spread infection to other people."

"Schools are putting measures in place to reduce the risk of coronavirus being transmitted to/within the school, such as hand hygiene regimes and cleaning measures within the school, reduced mixing between children and less objects going in and out of school.

"It is important for high-risk parents/family members to ensure that they continue to socially distance from other adults, like at school pick-up times, to minimise their likelihood of possible exposure," the HSE advice reads.

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