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Staying safe and government guidance

We're here for you if you want to talk

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Coronavirus guidance for children at high risk

This page is about the guidance for children, including children who are clinically extremely vulnerable, in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and explains what you can do to protect them.

Should my child be shielding?

Last updated: 2 November 2020

The first thing to know is that over the summer in 2020, the guidelines about which children are clinically extremely vulnerable changed. Across the UK, many children who were previously advised to shield have been removed from the shielding patient list, based on data that suggests they are are not as vulnerable to coronavirus as previously thought. This included some children with cancer. If this was the case with your child, you should have been contacted by their doctor to discuss this. Read more about which children are on the shielding list, and why some children were removed.

If your child has been removed from the shielding patient list, they no longer need to shield and can go to school. They should still continue to follow general social distancing and hygiene advice. This page also gives some practical steps you can take to reduce risk.

If your child is still on the shielding patient list, then their doctor may recommend they do not attend school or nursery. Children in this group may have received similar advice before the coronavirus pandemic, due to their increased risk of infection.

If you're not sure whether your child should attend school, speak to their treatment team.

If your child has been removed from the shielding list but you are still worried about their risk

Last updated: 27 November 2020

If your child has been removed from the shielding list, this is because evidence has shown that they are unlikely to be as vulnerable as previously thought.

You can still choose to take extra precautions to reduce their risk though. There are practical tips below of how you can reduce risk.

You may also want to:

  • Read our information on why some children were removed from the shielding list and the evidence behind this.
  • Speak to your child's healthcare team about your worries and ask questions
  • Read our page on what we know about coronavirus in schools and children.
  • Speak to your child's school about your concerns. They can explain what measures are in place to reduce risk. They may even be able to continue supporting home learning if you feel that your child's health is at risk.
  • Remember, it's difficult to be completely risk-free. There will be some risks you can remove, some you can't remove, and some you choose not to remove if the benefit of doing something outweighs the risk. This will be a personal decision for you and your family, based on your own feelings, your healthcare team's advice, and your understanding of the level of risk.
  • If you need help thinking things through, you can talk to us or talk to other parents in our online community forum.

If your child is on the shielding list (is clinically extremely vulnerable)

If your child is on the shielding list, this is because they could be at high risk of severe illness if they get coronavirus. They will probably not be attending school in person right now. You should speak to your healthcare team about what precautions you should be taking.

Below are links to shielding guidance for children in each country. Further down are some practical tips for ways you can reduce your child's risk.

What if we can't follow all of the shielding guidance?

The guidance for children who are clinically extremely vulnerable aims to help you reduce the risk of them catching coronavirus as much as possible. However, we understand there may be parts of the guidance which are difficult to follow. Keeping their distance from those they live with may not always be practical, particularly if they are younger. You might also be worried if other people in the household are still going out to work or school and having contact with other people. Those family members may be worried about catching coronavirus and bringing it home.

This is a really difficult situation to be in for children and adults, and all these worries are hard to cope with. But even if you can't follow every single part of the guidance, there will be lots you can control.

  • Remember the main ways to avoid catching coronavirus - avoiding close contact with other people, keeping hands clean, not touching your face with your hands. These are still the main ways to avoid catching coronavirus. If your child and those they live with do this as much as possible, this will reduce the risk. There are more practical tips for how to reduce risk inside and outside the home below.
  • Speak to your child's healthcare team - they can answer your questions and talk to you about sensible precautions you can take.
  • If you or your family are still going out to work - speak to your employer about adjusting your role to reduce contact with other people to protect your child. Make sure your workplace is COVID-safe, and if you're not sure, ask for a risk assessment. See our Money and work page for more options to reduce risk and protect your income.
  • If their siblings are back at school - speak to the school about your situation. They can explain what measures are in place to reduce risk. They may even be able to continue supporting home learning for other children - it's worth asking. You could also read our page on what we know about coronavirus in schools.
  • Supporting your child's mental health - Some children are struggling with worry themselves about their own risk, or about putting their sibling at risk. Sometimes, your treatment team might have access to psychological support for your family. Other helpful resources are Young Minds, Fruit Fly Collective, The Mix and the NHS website.
  • Remember, it's difficult to be completely risk-free - There will be some risks you can remove, some you can't remove, and some you choose not to remove if the benefit of doing something outweighs the risk. This will be a personal decision for you and your family, based on your own situation and your healthcare team's advice.
  • If you need help thinking things through - you can talk to us or talk to other parents in our online community forum.

Government guidance

Last updated: 5 January 2021

Remember that it’s your choice what your family does to limit your child's risk of catching coronavirus, above and beyond what's required in your area. Your child's healthcare team are best placed to give you personalised advice about your child's individual risk and sensible precautions to take.

You may also find it helpful to read our information on practical support and coping with your emotions.

Below you'll find links to the latest guidance in each of the four countries of the UK, both for the general population (including children who are not on the shielding list), and for adults and children who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Most children who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable are probably already being advised to shield (not attend school) by their healthcare team, due to their condition, regardless of where they live. If your child was removed from the shielding list this year (due to new evidence that coronavirus doesn't affect all children with cancer as significantly as previously thought) then they are not advised to stay off school. But always check with your healthcare team.

England

Scotland

  • In Scotland (from 5 January 2021), most of the country is now in lockdown, except for some islands that remain at Level 3. In lockdown, clinically extremely vulnerable people are being told to shield. You will be sent a new letter about this.
  • Stay at home guidance in most of Scotland from 5 January 2021 - explains what you can and cannot do, and which venues are closed.
  • COVID protection Levels - which areas of Scotland are in which protection Level (0 to 4) and what you can and cannot do in each protection Level. Some parts of Scotland ares still in Level 3. There's specific advice for vulnerable people in each Level, including for children.
  • Shielding advice and support - specific advice for people who were previously advised to shield, including a section for children and young people.
  • General coronavirus guidance - find all other guidance for Scotland including staying safe, testing and self-isolating, work, financial support, businesses, travel and school.
  • A list of all guidance - links to all published guidance, including staying safe, testing, businesses, employers, education, children, healthcare, religion, housing, hospitality and more.

Wales

  • In Wales, the whole country is in Alert level 4, and this means clinically extremely vulnerable people are being told to shield. You will be sent a new letter about this.
  • Alert level 4 - explains what you need to do at Alert level 4. Currently all of Wales is in Alert level 4.
  • Alert level 4: frequently asked questions - more detail on how to keep safe and the rules in place in Alert level 4.
  • COVID-19 Alert levels - explains the national guidance in different Alert levels. Currently all of Wales is in Alert level 4.
  • Guidance for people extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 who have been shielding - specific advice for people who were previously advised to shield, including a section on children and young people.
  • General coronavirus guidance - find all other guidance for Wales including protecting yourself and others, testing and tracing, work, financial support, businesses, volunteering, education and travel.

Northern Ireland

Melody and Andrew making faces into the camera.

Shielding as a family

Melody talks about shielding to protect her son Andrew, who's in remission from leukaemia.

Melody's story

Practical things you can do to protect your child

Last updated: 9 November 2020

As guidelines change, it can be difficult to understand how to apply them in practice. Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of your child catching coronavirus, in addition to government guidance for your area.

If your child goes outside, try to go to places where there is more space and you won't be near other people.

Try to help them follow social distancing measures and maintain good hygiene. This means you and your child should:

  • keep 2 metres away from other people (unless they are in your household, support bubble or extended household)
  • avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes (though this may be difficult for younger children)
  • wash your hands thoroughly (for around 20 seconds) as soon as you get back.

You may also want to consider:

  • avoiding places that will be busy
  • avoiding public transport, where possible
  • washing clothes worn outside more regularly (there is some evidence to suggest that coronavirus can stay on fabrics for a few days)
  • wearing a face mask or covering. In some situations, wearing a face mask is mandatory, unless you're exempt. See "Wearing a face mask or covering" below.

See also our information about going to school.

Even if you live in an area of high risk, your child isn't expected to observe social distancing with other members of your household, support bubble or extended household.

To protect your child at home, help them to:

  • regularly wash their hands thoroughly (for 20 seconds) with soap and water, or use a hand sanitiser
  • avoid touching their face with their hands (though this may be difficult for younger children).

It's also a good idea to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home.

If members of your household are going out to work or school, they should be following the strict advice to prevent catching or spreading coronavirus in those settings. When they get home, they should wash their hands thoroughly.

If you're still worried, you may want to consider restricting your household's movements outside the home, or taking more precautions in the home, for example:

  • minimising time spent in shared spaces, and keeping shared spaces well ventilated
  • using separate bathrooms (or cleaning them after each use) and using separate towels
  • sleeping separately
  • using separate cutlery, dishcloths and tea towels
  • taking hygiene precautions when leaving and entering the home.

Your child's healthcare team are the best people to advise on the specific precautions your household could take.

The restrictions on meeting up with people outside your household, support bubble or extended household are different in different areas. Check the links to your government's guidelines above.

The risk of infection increases the closer you are to another person with coronavirus, and the longer you spend in close contact with them. So if you are allowed to meet people outside your household, support bubble or extended household, it’s important to take extra precautions:

  • keep 2 metres (3 steps) apart
  • if guidelines allow you to meet inside, keep the area well ventilated
  • don’t share food or utensils
  • avoid being face-to-face (the risk of infection is lower if your child interacts side-by-side)
  • avoid shouting or singing near each other (there is some evidence to suggest that these activities can increase the risk of coronavirus spreading between people).

See also our information about going to school.

Using a face mask may not be appropriate for young children, but if you think your child can manage one, consider giving them a face mask or covering to wear - particularly if they're going anywhere they can't stay two metres apart from other people.

The government has guidance on how to make and wear your own face covering.

There are different rules about when children of a certain age must wear face coverings across the UK. For the latest regulations, visit the relevant government page on face coverings in:

Current advice from the World Health Organisation and the British Veterinary Association is that there’s no evidence that pets can be a source of infection or become sick from coronavirus.

However, there is some evidence that coronavirus can survive on surfaces. This could include your pet’s fur, so it’s important that everyone in your household washes their hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals. Avoid letting your pet touch your child's face, and try to encourage your child to avoid touching their own face.

PDSA have more information about pets and coronavirus.

If your child is clinically extremely vulnerable and you also have vulnerable relatives living outside of your support bubble or extended household, there are other people and services that can help. You can also help by being in regular contact.

  • Call your relative regularly to check in with them.
  • If your relative has a garden or nearby outdoor space, you could arrange to meet them outside, staying 2 metres apart, as long as this is allowed in the local guidelines.
  • Ask your relative's neighbours if they could help by bringing them supplies.
  • Ask other family members or friends who are not vulnerable themselves to drop off supplies.
  • Book online deliveries for your relative.
  • If you are worried about your relative getting supplies and don't have anyone nearby that can help, read our page on practical support.
  • Contact their pharmacy if they need a volunteer to deliver their medication.
  • Contact their local council and tell them the situation.
  • Contact Age UK.
  • There are charities and groups in local communities working to support those who are vulnerable – look into anything happening in your relative's local area.

Keep updated about coronavirus and blood cancer

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Support for you

Call our free and confidential helpline on 0808 2080 888 from Monday to Friday, 10am to 7pm, and Saturday to Sunday, 10am to 1pm.

We are currently receiving a very high volume of calls related to coronavirus, so if you're not able to get through straight away, please leave a message and we'll get back to you as soon as we can.

You can also email us if you prefer to get in contact that way. We'll usually get back to you within two working days, but due to the current rate of calls and emails we are currently receiving it may take us longer.

Talk to other people with blood cancer on our Online Community Forum – there is a group for coronavirus questions and support.

You can also find out what's helping other people affected by blood cancer through coronavirus and beyond in our pages on living well with or after blood cancer.

The following companies have provided funding for our coronavirus support, but have had no further input: AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Celgene, Gilead, Incyte, Kyowa Kirin, Novartis, Pfizer, Sanofi, Takeda.

We're here for you if you want to talk

0808 2080 888

[email protected]