Information for Parents and Caregivers

Help your little ones get through the respiratory illness season as safely as possible. Below is information for parents, families and caregivers on what to do if your child starts showing respiratory illness symptoms, as well as how to prevent the spread of illness.

If your child has symptoms:

Use the COVID-19 assessment tool  

If your child is symptomatic or has tested positive for COVID-19, use the Ontario Ministry of Health’s Self-Assessment Tool to learn more about what to do next.

If your child is sick, they should stay home from school or daycare  Stay home until any fever is gone and other symptoms have been getting better for at least 24 hours (48 hours if they had vomiting or diarrhea).

Test for COVID-19 if needed

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.


Whether it is COVID-19 or another respiratory virus, masking can help reduce the spread of illness.

Once your child is well enough to return to activities, they should do the following for 10 days:

  • Wear a well-fitted mask in all public settings (including school and child care). Children aged 2 to 5 should only wear a mask if they are being supervised, if they can safely tolerate masking, and if they can put on and take off the mask themselves)
  • Avoid non-essential activities where you need to take off your mask (for example, playing a wind instrument in music class or removing your mask for sports or dining out)
  • Avoid visiting anyone who is immunocompromised or may be at higher risk of illness (for example, seniors)
  • Avoid non-essential visits to highest risk settings such as hospitals and long-term care homes

Managing Illness at Home

According to the Ontario College of Family Physicians, “Most respiratory illness in children, including colds, influenza, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and COVID-19 can be managed at home without the need for prescription medications. However, in some cases,  it is important to seek medical care.”

Refer to Family Doctor Tips on Caring for Children with Respiratory Symptoms [PDF].

Getting Medical Advice and Medical Care

Ontario’s Health811 service connects you to health advice anytime. You can call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Seek medical attention if your child has any of the following:

  • Is under 3 months of age with a fever or is having trouble breathing
  • Fever that lasts more than 7 days
  • Bluish skin colour
  • Not drinking enough fluid
  • Not waking up
  • Fever with a rash
  • Constant vomiting or diarrhea
  • Has a weak immune system and has a fever

Protecting against and preventing respiratory illness


Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to protect you and those around you from infectious diseases. Ontario provides publicly funded vaccines for children to protect against influenza and COVID-19. Learn more about helping your child get their flu shot and/or COVID-19 vaccination.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of lower respiratory illness, particularly among infants, young children, and older adults. It affects the lungs and airways. The infection is most severe in young babies and older adults and can cause serious lung infections that may require hospitalization.
Learn more about the signs and symptoms of RSV, treatment, and how to protect yourself and others.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
 | Ontario Ministry of Health
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) fact sheet | Ontario Ministry of Health

As respiratory viruses circulate, consider wearing a well-fitted, high-quality mask in crowded indoor settings with poor ventilation. Wearing a mask indoors is especially recommended for those who are at higher risk of getting very sick. Children aged 2 to 5 should only wear a mask if they are being supervised, if they can safely tolerate masking, and if they can put on and take off the mask themselves.

Handwashing and respiratory etiquette
Learn more about the layers of protection, including handwashing, at How to Reduce Spread of Illness.