It’s that time of year…the weather gets a little cooler (hopefully soon!), 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 diseases in 1 year!  

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.
The most common symptom is intense itching of the scalp.  Lice are 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 vacuum 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, olive oil, or even mayo!l. Best thing to do is encourage your kids to not  share hair brushes, hats or pillows with friends, just in case, and notify the school nurse right away! More on lice HERE. I’m itchy just writing this!

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 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, like pneumonia and blood infections.

Certain sports are associated with higher risk of MRSA: wrestling, football, and rugby. It is essential 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 the dryer entirely 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. 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 going to have to use some MAJOR bribing tactics to get these drops in!” Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is a common infectious disease of one or both eyes cause by a virus, bacteria or allergies that is quickly spread through contact with a contaminated finger, or personal items like towels, makeup, etc.

Symptoms include eyes that water profusely, eyes that are red and swollen, itchy, and painful. Pink eye may produce pus or clear fluid, and may make it difficult to open the eye in the morning, with crusty lids and lashes.  If your doctor makes the diagnosis of bacterial conjunctivitis, 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 information on Strep Throat, Gastroenteritis, and the Common Cold vs. Influenza coming next week!

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