It’s Back to School – 6 Illnesses You Need to Know About- Part 1

It’s that time of year…weather gets a little cooler, leaves start to change and kids and teens are back to school…and back to getting sick!!! Here’s a quick review of the 6 most common school-related childhood illnesses, and pay attention, because according to the CDC, more than 150 million school days are lost due to illness in 1 year! I chose to include pictures because as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words! i’m also splitting the subject into 2 separate Blogs so stay tuned for Part 2!

1. Lice


Infestation with head lice is a common problem among school children and the household members of infested children. This itchy infestation is most often spread by direct contact with the hair of an infected person. These little critters are gray, brown, black or nearly transparent and very difficult to see. However, they lay their eggs, or nits, very close to the scalp. They are whitish, oval shaped and can be seen behind the ears or near the scalp (Picture).
The most common symptom is intense itching of the scalp. Lice is not dangerous, but what a pain! It is tough to eradicate from the home; you’ll need to wash all clothing and bedding in extra hot water and vaccum upholstered furniture, carpets, helmets, car seats and let’s be honest, who has time for that! There are several chemical products on the market including NIX and RID, as well as natural home remedies including tea tree oil or olive oil. Best thing to do is encourage your kids to never share hair brushes, hats or pillows with friends just in case and always notify the school nurse right away!

2. MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant-Staph Aureus) MRSA

MRSA was once mostly a hospital acquired infection seen mostly in older patients with weak immune systems. In the last 10 years, MRSA has has been infecting otherwise healthy adults and children in the community at large. MRSA is a type of staph bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics and causes skin infections, such as pimples and boils, but may also cause more invasive illnesses such as pneumonia and blood infections.

Certain sports are associated with higher risk of MRSA, such as wrestling, football and rugby. It is very important for young athletes to practice good hygiene to avoid contracting or spreading MRSA. Athletes should wash their hands with soap and water or alcohol-based rubs often, but certainly before and after playing sports or sharing equipment. They should shower immediately after exercise and should never share bar soaps or towels.

Lastly, it is important to wash uniforms after each use and drying in dryer completely is ideal. Treatment for MRSA may include antibiotic ointment and /or oral antibiotics. Hibiclens soap is recommended by infectious disease doctors because it kills germs on contact and its effect can last for up to 24 hours. You can find Hibiclens at most pharmacies nationwide. If you notice your child has a “pimple” or small boil that gets worse or does not get better with over the counter antibiotic ointment, seek medical attention.

3. Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis) Pink Eye

Ugh! The dreaded pink eye! We feel bad for our kids because they are miserable, but really we are all thinking “my kid can’t go to school!!! and I’m gonna have to use some MAJOR bribing tactics to get these drops in!!!” Pink eye is a common infectious disease of one or both eyes cause by a virus, bacteria or allergies that is easily spread through contact with a contaminated finger or personal items like towels, makeup, etc.

Syptoms include eyes that water profusely, eyes that are red and swollen, itchy, painful and may produce pus or clear fluid and may be difficult to open in the morning with crusty lids and lashes. If your doctor makes the diagnosis of bacterial conjunctivits, antibiotic drops will be prescribed and your child cannot return to school for at least 24 hours after initiating treatment. If the diagnosis of allergic conjunctivitis is made, the doctor may recommend allergy eye drops and your child may return to school within 24 hours. If the diagnosis of viral conjunctivitis is made (usually caused by same viruses which cause the common cold), antibiotic drops will not work you will be stuck at home with your kid for 4-7 days! So wash those hands frequently and stay away from people with pink eye!

That’s Part 1 – stayed tune for more on Strep Throat, Gastroenteritis and the Common Cold vs Influenza coming very soon!

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