Confusion as schools and councils offer conflicting advice for pupils with common cold-like symptoms


Confusion as schools and councils offer conflicting advice for pupils with common cold-like symptoms

Confusion as schools and councils offer conflicting advice for pupils with common cold-like symptoms

The government has been urged to clear up confusion over what children with common-cold like symptoms should do, as it emerged pupils were receiving different advice over PCR tests and common cold-like symptoms.

A runny nose, headache and a sore throat are all thought to be symptoms of the highly contagious Delta variant of coronavirus, mimicking the symptoms of a common cold.

Several local public health teams have told parents to get their child tested for Covid if they display symptoms outside the main three listed by the NHS: a fever, dry cough and loss of sense of taste or smell.

And The Independent understands some schools have told pupils to self-isolate alongside a PCR test if they have symptoms such as a runny nose as an extra precaution after cases were detected in the setting.

At least two primary schools in Sheffield have told parents to keep their children off school and get them a PCR test if they feel unwell or have common cold-like after other pupils tested positive.

A spokesperson for Sheffield Council’s public health team told The Independent: “Where schools in Sheffield have been advised to widen symptoms this is on advice of PHE as a result of an outbreak situation.”

“There has been a really small number of schools locally where letters have gone home to parents informing them to take children for PCRs when they have other symptoms as part of an outbreak management response supported by PHE.”

Meanwhile, Dudley Council is telling everyone is their area to get tested if they have cold-like symptoms.

“The Delta variant is the most dominant strain in our communities at the moment and we know that the symptoms can present differently – headache, runny nose, sore throat,  which may feel like a cold or hayfever – so we’re recommending that anyone with these symptoms takes a full PCR covid test,” councillor Nicolas Barlow told The Independent.

The cabinet member for health and adult social care added: “This is the precautionary advice we are giving to everyone in our communities including schools, families and adults of all ages.”

Over in Derbyshire, the county council’s head of public health has written to parents telling them children with additional Covid symptoms aside from the main three should get a PCR test but that there was no need to isolate while waiting for the result.

Tummy ache, a sore throat, headache and runny nose were among the additional symptoms listed.

Manchester City Council is also advising everyone with symptoms outside the main three, such as a runny nose and headache that lasts a long time, to get a PCR test.

Other councils told The Independent they were sticking to the main symptoms of Covid only in their advice.

Julie McCulloch from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) told The Independent: “We understand that there is emerging evidence of Delta variant symptoms which are similar to a common cold such as a headache, runny nose or sore throat, and that is obviously what is behind this local advice.

“Government guidance continues to list the main symptoms of Covid as a high temperature, continuous cough, and loss or change of smell or taste.”

The union’s director of policy said: “It is clearly quite confusing to have different advice about symptoms and it would be helpful to have a definitive steer from the government on this matter.”

Andy Byers, a headteacher, The Independent his secondary school in Durham was also watching out for Delta variant symptoms and sending children home to get tested if they display them.

And a headteacher in Liverpool, who wished to stay anonymous, told The Independent their school is asking parents to keep children who are unwell at home until they feel better and – if they want – to get a Covid test as extra reassurance.

“​​We have sent children home with sore throats and other symptoms, partly because the risk assessment says that if unwell, a child should not be in,” they said.

Other school leaders told The Independent they were just sticking to the main Covid symptoms of a cough, fever and loss of taste or smell in their advice about tests and isolation.

One of these told The Independent they were not incorportating Delta variant symptoms into school advice as it was “not consistent” with the advice they have received from their local public health team.

Another said it was “news to [him]” that other schools were doing this.

The current NHS advice is for anyone with the main symptoms of Covid to get a PCR test and to self-isolate, meaning pupils must stay away from school.

Local directors of public health teams work with schools to devise Covid safety measures to limit the spread of Covid and provide advice.


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