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Just a runny nose? No need to stay home from school, says Yukon's top doctor

Yukon health officials have come up with a colour-coded system that's meant to help parents and health care providers assess symptoms and decide when children should stay home from school.

Health officials says colour-coding symptoms will help parents decide when kids should stay home

'We have parents wondering about what happens when they themselves need to be at work and are reluctant to take yet another day of sick leave,' said Yukon Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley on Wednesday. (Government of Yukon/Alistair Maitland)

It's a question on the minds of many parents this fall — when should my child stay home? Is a runny nose or a mild fever enough to keep them out of school?

Now Yukon health officials have come up with a colour-coded system that's meant to help parents and health care providers assess symptoms and decide when children should stay home.

"For many weeks I've been hearing about how we're going to sustain a school year when kids will need to be sent home for any sniffle," said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley, at a news conference on Wednesday.

"We have parents wondering about what happens when they themselves need to be at work and are reluctant to take yet another day of sick leave. Or even if there's any sick leave left."

Hanley said parents will receive a chart that helps them decide what to do on any given morning. It's colour-coded like a stoplight — green, yellow and red.

Health care providers will also be given the guidelines to help them give advice to parents, Hanley said. 

Green means go (to school). That's when a child has no symptoms, or only symptoms of a previously-diagnosed condition and therefore not unusual for the child.

Yellow means a child has some symptoms and should stay home for 24 hours to see whether those symptoms resolve or progress. Those symptoms might include a runny nose, fever, fatigue, sore throat, vomiting or diarrhea.

A runny nose or congestion that persists but is relatively mild and not worsening means a child can go back to school after 24 hours — so long as they have no other symptoms. 

"We know that this symptom alone [a runny nose] is only very rarely associated with COVID[-19]. And we all know how common this symptom is through the fall and winter months," Hanley said.

Vomiting or diarrhea, however, warrants keeping students home until those symptoms are gone.

Red means a child has symptoms that mean they should be tested for COVID-19, or remain in self-isolation for at least 10 days before returning to school.

Such "red" symptoms include coughing, a fever, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, and loss of taste or smell.

"By the end of this week, all parents should have received a new easy-to-follow chart that will assist them in determining what sick means for a school child in the new normal of COVID-19," Hanley said.

Hanley said the goal is to keep as many kids in class, as much as possible this school year — while still being cautious. He said so far it's going well.

"Every additional day that goes on well shows that our working premise, that the best place for children to be is in school during the school year, is being borne out."  

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