As the first day of school approaches, kids are packing their book bags with pencils, notebooks and other classroom essentials. And while parents can help kids decide what they need to bring for the first day back, they can’t do much to choose what kids will bring home – like pinkeye, influenza or lice.
As much as you would like to, sending your kids to school in plastic gloves and a surgical face mask is not an option. However, there are ways we can help prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses without the medical garb. Check out these common illnesses children get at school and some Back to School Health Tips for Kids to learn about ways you can help keep your family safe and healthy this school year.
A large group of children in a small space quickly becomes a breeding ground for illness-causing germs. A single sneeze or cough can send tiny germs flying into the air, infecting anyone in their path. Because of this easy transmission, the common cold alone accounts for 22 million school days lost each year.
Tips for Kids
Having good hygiene is instrumental in preventing the spread of infection, so make hand washing a routine. Teach children to wash their hands after using the restroom or blowing their nose, before every meal and after playing outdoors. Consistency at home will rollover into the classroom and could prevent illness-causing germs from entering your home.
It only takes one infected child to bring a virus into the school – from there it can spread like wildfire as children share books, tables and countless other items. The flu virus is particularly contagious and leads to around 38 million lost school days each year.
Tip for Kids
Because the flu virus is spread mainly through coughing or sneezing, show kids the “vampire,” a move they should use to prevent airborne pathogens. The “vampire,” which encourages kids to cough or sneeze into their elbow, looks like Dracula with his cloak. Making hygiene fun can support children’s willingness to practice it at home and school!
In addition, getting a flu shot or nasal vaccine is the best way to fight infection. Although they’re not 100 percent effective, even if your child does get influenza, his or her symptoms will be less severe and they will be less likely to suffer from other complications.
In the last year or so, Iowa doctors have seen more cases of fifths disease popping up. Fifths disease is a viral disease that produces a distinctive red rash that begins on the face and then spreads to other areas of the body. In addition to the rash, fifths disease can cause headache, fever and mild cold-like symptoms.
Tip for Kids
In conjunction with hand washing, remind children not to share personal items, such as water bottles or food, to help mitigate their risk of catching viral infections like fifths disease.
While irritants or allergies can cause some forms of pinkeye, the majority of cases are due to viral or bacterial infections. This highly contagious infection usually causes a green or yellow discharge from the eye and may cause the eye to burn or itch.
Tip for Kids
To help prevent pinkeye, remind your children that our hands are covered in germs, so avoid eye rubbing and putting their hands in or around their mouth. Regular hand washing is also a big proponent in preventing pinkeye.
The head louse is a parasitic insect that feeds on human blood and lives close to the scalp. While they are not known to spread disease, they do cause severe itching, irritability and difficulty sleeping. Just talking about head lice is enough to make your squirm, and actually dealing with the little buggers can be a serious pain!
Tips for Kids
Because lice cannot fly or hop, these bugs are passed through close contact with others who have lice or by sharing personal items. Remind children not to share hats, scarves, hair ties or brushes. In addition, if a classmate at school reportedly has lice, do an inspection of your child’s head right away.
When to Keep Kids Home
Although you don’t want your children to miss school, sometimes it is better to keep kids at home to prevent the spread of infection. You should keep your child home if he or she is:
- Has Diarrhea
- Has had a fever above 101.1 degrees Fahrenheit within the last 24 hours
- Has an unexplained rash, and you haven’t seen a doctor
- Has a severe cough
- Has lice and has not been treated
- Has pinkeye and has not been treated
- Your child is too sick to engage in classroom activities or lessons
Seeking Medical Attention at UnityPoint Clinic
Because illnesses don’t always occur during normal business hours, UnityPoint Clinic offers convenient clinic locations to our patients that are on a walk-in basis and can be used when meeting with your primary care provider isn't an option. Express Care and Urgent Care clinics provide convenient and cost-effective service for treating minor medical problems that require a health care provider's attention, but are not life threatening. These include things such as allergies, colds, coughs, ear aches, fevers, flu, infections, sore throats and pinkeye.
Visit us online to learn more and to find an Express Care or Urgent Care clinic in your Iowa town or city.