5 Back-to-School Infections Parents Should Know About
List of Infections Common in School-Age Kids
Many parents have a hard time deciding if their kids are well enough to go to school. What well-intentioned parent hasn’t sent a child off with tissues in hand, only to get that mid-morning “come get your child” phone call?
But if your child is feeling better, making the right decision isn’t as tough as you might think. It basically boils down to one question: Is my child contagious? Infections that are contagious, like strep throat, require a day at home with appropriate treatment.. Most daycares and schools won’t let kids return until after a fever has broken naturally (without fever-reducing medicines) for at least 24 hours.
“When kids come into contact with germs, they can unknowingly become infected simply by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth,” says Kate Cronan, MD, medical editor at Nemours’ KidsHealth.org. “And once they’re infected by contagious germs, it’s usually just a matter of time before other family members come down with the same illness.”
So what infections should parents be concerned about as kids head back to school? KidsHealth.org, the # 1 website for children’s health and development, says these are the top 5 illnesses parents should look out for during the school year:
- Pinkeye: Also known as conjunctivitis, pinkeye is very contagious when caused by viruses or bacteria. To prevent spreading pinkeye, kids should wash their hands often with warm water and soap; not touch their eyes; and avoid sharing eye drops, makeup, pillowcases, washcloths, and towels.
- Strep Throat: Strep throat spreads through close contact, unwashed hands, and airborne droplets from sneezing or coughing. Anyone can get strep throat, but it’s most common in school-age kids and teens. To prevent the spread of strep throat: keep a sick child’s eating utensils separate and wash them in hot, soapy water or a dishwasher; the child shouldn’t share food, drinks, napkins, or towels; teach your kids to sneeze or cough into a shirtsleeve, not their hands. Head Lice: Lice are common among kids ages 3-12 (affecting girls more often than boys), but anyone can get this infection. It’s not a sign of poor hygiene and lice do not spread disease. Parents should discourage sharing combs, brushes, hats, and helmets with others to help prevent the spread of lice.
- Molluscum Contagiosum: This skin rash is common among kids 1-12 years old, yet many parents are not familiar with molluscum contagiosum. It spreads easily, most commonly through direct skin-to-skin contact, but kids can get it by touching objects with the virus on them such as toys, clothing, towels, and bedding. Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water and avoid sharing towels, clothing, or other personal items to prevent its spread.
- Walking Pneumonia: Walking pneumonia is the leading type of pneumonia in school-age kids and young adults. It spreads through person-to-person contact or breathing in particles sent into the air by sneezing or coughing. Walking pneumonia usually develops gradually and can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Encourage kids to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently to prevent its spread.
Want more information about common childhood illnesses and infections? Visit KidsHealth.org or download KidsHealth’s free iPhone app, Is it Contagious? Featuring 85+ infections and illnesses, the app answers common questions parents ask and helps identify and assess the contagiousness, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of the most common childhood infections. To download the free app, search “Is It Contagious?” on the iPhone App Store.