The information on this page is meant to support parents, caregivers, and families in preventing the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19 and the flu, in our communities.

To prevent the spread of infections, it is important to stay home when sick.

Everyone has a role to play to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses. There are measures we can take to protect ourselves, our loved ones and those most vulnerable in our community. Each measure provides an added layer of protection.

Learn more about measures to protect yourself and others and other school health resources.

Use the Ontario Ministry of Health’s Self-Assessment Tool if you are sick or have any symptoms of illness or tested positive for COVID-19, to see what to do next. The self-assessment is also available in French .

You can also download Toronto Public Health’s screening poster.

To prevent the spread of viruses, it is important to stay home when sick or have symptoms of illness, even if they are mild

Consider completing Ontario Ministry of Health’s Self-Assessment Tool   for your child if they are sick or have symptoms of illness.

Test for COVID-19 if Eligible/Available

  • COVID-19 testing and treatments are available to certain groups. If your child is at high risk of severe illness, speak to your child’s health care provider as soon as possible after symptoms develop.
  • There are clinical assessment centres that are able to assess, test, and provide treatment options to people with COVID-19, flu and other respiratory symptoms. Some centres can also assess children. For more information, visit the Ontario Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 testing locations webpage.

There are many reasons children/students may have symptoms that are not related to COVID-19 or another respiratory infection. Examples include:

  • Shortness of breath related to asthma, cystic fibrosis, lung disease
  • Runny nose/nasal congestion related to seasonal allergies, being outside in cold weather,  any known long-term sinus inflammation or issues
  • Headache related to getting a vaccine in the last 48 hours, tension-type headaches, chronic migraines

Children/students with a known long-term health issue that is medically diagnosed and unrelated to a respiratory virus should look for new, different or worsening symptoms. If the child/student has a long-term health issue and symptoms are getting worse, they should stay home and speak to a health care provider or seek medical attention.

What is a close contact?

A close contact is someone who is living with or exposed to someone who tested positive or has symptoms while that person was contagious. Someone is contagious from 48 hours before symptoms start or their test date (whichever came first), until they complete their self-isolation.

Your child is a close contact if:

  • Someone who lives with your child has symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19


  • If your child:
    • Was within two meters from someone who has symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19 AND
    • Spent at least 15 minutes of time with them AND/OR multiple shorter lengths of time without consistent use of masking.

Notifying close contacts

In the community, it is the responsibility of the individual with COVID-19 symptoms or COVID-19 positive test to determine who their close contacts are and to notify them of their potential exposure.

Measures to take if your child was a close contact:

  • Your child may attend child care or school, as long as they do not have any symptoms. This also applies to your child’s household members.
  • For 10 days after your child’s last close contact with a person who has symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test:
    • Monitor for symptoms. If your child develops any symptoms, they are to stay home and follow instructions on the COVID-19 & Respiratory Virus Screening Questionnaire.
    • Follow extra measures
      • Wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings (including schools/child care, unless <2 years of age);
      • Avoid non-essential activities where they need to take off their mask (e.g., dining out, playing a wind instrument, high contact sports where masks cannot be safely worn), with reasonable exceptions such as when eating in a shared space at school while maintaining as much distancing as possible;
      • Do not visit people or settings (e.g. hospitals, long-term care homes) at higher risk, including where there are seniors or those who are immunocompromised.
      • Follow this advice even if your child tests negative for COVID-19 or you did not do a test. These measures are an added layer of prevention against the spread of COVID-19 and respiratory viruses.

Learn more about what is a close contact in the community (also available in French).

The Ontario College of Family Physicians has created a fact sheet with tips for parents/guardians on caring for children with respiratory symptoms, including how to help support your sick child at home and when to call a health care provider. This fact sheet is also available in other languages and can be found under the Caring for sick children tab.

Speak to a healthcare provider or call Health 811 if you have questions about your child’s health.

More resources:

As respiratory virus activity increases this fall, a well-fitted, high-quality mask in crowded indoor settings with poor ventilation, may be important, especially for those who are at higher risk of getting very sick.

Learn more about face masks and respirators, including qualities of a good mask.

Stay up-to-date with your vaccinations for the best protection against getting very sick from COVID-19. Everyone ages six months and over can get the COVID-19 and other vaccines at the same time.

Visit COVID-19 Vaccines for Infants, Children & Youth webpage to learn about COVID-19 vaccines vaccine safety and benefits and having a positive vaccine experience. Learn about vaccine safety and benefits, specialized accommodations/clinics, and how to talk to your child about getting the vaccine.

Our COVID-19 vaccine resources (also available in French ) can be shared so youth can learn about COVID-19 vaccines and find answers to common questions.

Routine immunization for children and youth is still important during COVID-19. Learn more about routine childhood vaccines and visit the Childhood Vaccines – Quick Reference Guide webpage.