If your baby or child is at high risk

This page includes guidance for people who are at increased risk of serious illness from COVID-19, including information about shielding.

Last updated: 16th November 2020

This information includes guidance for people who are at increased risk of serious illness as a result of COVID-19. It includes information about local and national restrictions, shielding and what to do if you are worried.

Increased risk in babies and children

We know that children with some conditions such as chronic lung disease (CLD) have a higher risk of developing other types of infection that can cause problems in the lungs, sinuses, throat or airways (respiratory infection). Therefore some children and babies may have a higher risk of getting unwell with COVID-19.

The government has previously recommended that some people, including some babies and children born sick or premature, should take extra precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19. This was known as shielding.

Starting in July, a large number of children who were previously on the shielding list have been removed. This is because newer evidence and research indicated that all children and young people who were considered extremely clinically vulnerable should be reviewed by their GP or hospital clinician. As a result of this, many children who were considered clinically extremely vulnerable are now not considered to be so.

The shielding programme paused in all areas of the UK from the middle of August. However, as cases have continued to rise across the UK, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable have been given updated shielding advice. We have more information about what this means for you in your area of the UK below.

We always recommend you check for the latest information in your part of the UK, as the situation and the restrictions are likely to change. If you are worried or unsure about what this guidance means for you, you can contact us at hello@bliss.org.uk. If you are unsure about whether you or your child should be considered at higher risk, you should contact your GP or healthcare team.

Guidance for people at increased risk in England

From 5th November, a new set of restrictions have come into place for everyone living in England. This involves everyone staying at home (unless for some specific activities), and non-essential shops and venues closing. These restrictions will be in place for at least four weeks.

In England, the government advice is different for people who are at high risk (clinically extremely vulnerable) or at moderate risk (clinically vulnerable). You can find out more about what this means here.

People who are at moderate risk should follow the same updated guidance as everyone else in England, but also to be especially careful to minimise social contact and thoroughly clean hands and frequently touched areas of their home. You can find more information here.

People who are clinically extremely vulnerable have medical conditions that make them especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Most people this group will have previously received a letter from the NHS or their GP to advise them to shield. From the 5th November, this group should follow additional shielding advice, as well as the national guidance.

As more has become known about COVID-19, most children who were originally considered clinically extremely vulnerable are not now considered to be so. These children are not now required to follow shielding advice. In many cases, if your child was previously considered at high risk, you will have been involved in a review and informed of any changes. GPs are now being asked to write to the families of any children who have previously been asked to shield but who no longer need to do so.

Children who are required to shield are advised not to go to school while the current restrictions are in place. If your child lives with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, but they are not clinically extremely vulnerable themselves, they should still go to school.

The government will write to or email everyone who is considered clinically extremely vulnerable. This will advise how to keep yourself safe during these new restrictions.

If you do not know whether your child is considered clinically extremely vulnerable, or have other questions about your child’s vulnerability, you should speak to your child’s GP or clinician.

For more information and the most up-to-date guidance, visit the government website. If you are unsure what this guidance means for you, you can email us at hello@bliss.org.uk.

Guidance for people at increased risk in Scotland

From 2nd November, Scotland has entered a five-level system of restrictions. Currently, people who were previously asked to shield are being asked to follow the same guidance as everyone else in Scotland, according to the protection level in their area. Your GP or healthcare provider will write to you if you are required to shield again.

If you are asked to shield, the advice will be different depending on which protection level is in place in the area of Scotland where you live.

If your child has been asked to shield and you live in a level 3 area, you should talk with your child's GP or clinician about whether they should go to school. If your child has been asked to shield and you live in a level 4 area, your child should not go to school.

There is more advice about shielding here and more advice about the protection level in your area here.

If you have any questions about your child and their vulnerability you should speak to your GP or healthcare provider. If you are unsure what this guidance means for you, you can email us at hello@bliss.org.uk.

Guidance for people at increased risk in Wales

Shielding has been paused in Wales. Anyone who had previously been shielding should now follow the same guidance as everyone in Wales.

Those who are considered extremely vulnerable and have previously shielded should receive a letter from The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, which advises how to take extra care to keep yourself safe.

Some areas of Wales are currently under local lockdown restrictions. Everyone should follow the guidance for the area where they live. There is more guidance about local restrictions in Wales here.

Anyone in Wales who is currently on the shielding list will contacted if there are any changes to this. There is information about the support available, including an easy read guide, here.

If you are unsure what this guidance means for you, you can email us at hello@bliss.org.uk.

Guidance for people at increased risk in Northern Ireland

Shielding has been paused in Northern Ireland. Anyone who had previously been shielding should now follow the same guidance as everyone else in Northern Ireland. There is more information about the latest guidance, including restrictions, here.

There is more information for people who were previously shielding here. This includes information about what you can do if you are worried about the risks, or for support after shielding.

There is more information here for people who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 but who haven’t been shielding.

If you are unsure what this guidance means for you, you can email us at hello@bliss.org.uk.

If my child is shielding, do I also need to shield myself?

People who live with someone who is shielding, but who are not themselves clinically extremely vulnerable do not need to shield.

In some parts of the UK, some children who need to shield have been advised to not to go to school. If this is the case, other children in the home who are not shielding should continue to go to school. Adults are able to go to work, but should work from home if they can. If you are living with someone who is shielding, you should minimise social interaction outside of the home. More information about what restrictions are in place where you live for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable can be found on the government websites for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you have any concerns about this, talk to your GP or your child’s consultant. If you have any concerns about your child’s school, you could speak to your child’s head teacher. or you could also call the Department of Education helpline on 0800 046 8687, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.

Can I form a support bubble or extended household?

Currently everyone in the UK, including people who are considered to be clinically extremely vulnerable, is able to form a ‘support bubble’ or an ‘extended household’ with one other household. You are only able to do this if at least one of the households includes a person who lives alone or is a single parent (where at least one child is under 18).

If you form a support bubble or extended household, you can spend time inside each other’s homes, and stay overnight, without needing to socially distance. You can find more information on the government websites for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I am worried about my child who is vulnerable. What should I do?

We know that this is a difficult time for parents of babies and children who might be vulnerable, who have been told that their child needs to stay at home more, or have been removed from the shielded patients list. You may welcome the advice you have been given, but you may also have concerns about your child’s health if they are vulnerable and this is okay.

If you are worried about your child’s vulnerability you should speak to your GP or another healthcare professional. You could speak to a member of the team on the unit. Even if you have asked before, it is always okay to ask if you are unsure about something.

We understand that some children and parents may be anxious about attending school and educational settings. We recommend that any parents who are worried talk to their child’s school if you are worried. You can also call the Department of Education helpline on 0800 046 8687 – 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday) or 10am to 4pm (Saturday to Sunday).

You can also email us at hello@bliss.org.uk if you would like to talk to someone. If you have a baby on the unit or have recently left the unit, you can speak via video call to one of our Bliss Champion volunteers.

Other useful organisations

Asthma UK has information about coronavirus (COVID-19).

Wellchild has specific information about coronavirus (COVID-19) for parents and carers of sick children.

The British Lung Foundation has specific information about coronavirus for people with lung conditions.

The British Heart Foundation have information for people affected by heart or circulatory disease.

Mind has lots of information if you are feeling anxious or worried about COVID-19, and has guidance on how to take care of your mental wellbeing.

Working Families have more information about your work rights during COVID-19.

YoungMinds has more information about how to talk to your children about COVID-19.

We are updating this page as more information becomes available. For more support, get in touch at hello@bliss.org.uk