[Ask Dr Chiu] Why do kindergarten have to close for upper respiratory tract infection?

[Ask Dr Chiu] Why do kindergarten have to close for upper respiratory tract infection?

[Ask Dr Chiu] Why do kindergarten have to close for upper respiratory tract infection?



5  Mins Read

Because of COVID-19, schools have been shut down for a long time this year. It was not until a couple of months ago that children gradually resumed their lessons.

However, the recent outbreaks of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) in several kindergartens have prompted the government to suspend all in-person classes in pre-schools again for two weeks. Much as parents hope their kids to enjoy school life again, they seem to be divided over the fresh hiatus. Some think the URTI is a minor illness that doesn’t warrant shuttering for such a long period; others put safety first and even worry that it foretells the emergence of the fourth wave of the pandemic.

All in all, is the suspension necessary? How should small children prevent URTI?

To answer these questions, we must first understand what URTI means.

As its name suggests, URTI is the infection of the areas in the nose, nasal passage, larynx and pharynx. Symptoms including cough, sneeze, nasal dripping and sore throat. Occasionally people may also have fever. What we usually refer to as “common cold”  is indeed a form of URTI. URTI is usually caused by virus, and in most cases, people recover from it within a few days by themselves. They may, however, take medicines to alleviate symptoms.

URTI is not regarded as a serious illness, yet there are two things that we should be take note if an outbreak occurs in a kindergarten.

  1.  Symptoms of URTI may be very similar to those of influenza or even COVID-19.
    It is difficult to differentiate the three without testing.
  2. Transmission of URTI is basically the same as influenza and COVID-19.
    It means if there is an outbreak of URTI in kindergarten, theoretically there can also be an outbreak of COVID-19. The upsurge of URTI numbers ring a warning bell that there is something wrong with the infection control at the kindergartens.


We all understand that it is very difficult to have small children to comply with infection control measures. Suspending classes at this point is therefore a prudent act, so to give time for all parties to make a thorough assessment of the problem and work out a solution.

Arresting the spread of URTI is not difficult. Parents should not let their children go to school if they develop symptoms. Schools should be noticed immediately, so that they can take appropriate measures accordingly. Parents should also set a good example to their children by wearing masks vigilantly, performing hand hygiene, and practising social distancing.  By teaching them the correct infection control concepts, chances of the spread of either URTI or COVID-19 can be greatly reduced.