With the summer holidays coming to a close, it’s time to start thinking about the school year ahead. And although for most parents it’s a relief to see the children back at school at last, it also means the return of those dreaded childhood infections and other classroom pests. Don’t worry too much though, we’ve compiled a list of eight common back to school ailments and our advice on how to deal with them.
- Coughs and colds
There is always a huge surge of children getting colds in the second week of September after a lull during the summer holidays. Most common symptoms are a runny nose, sore throat and cough.
TREATMENT: Depending on how the child feels it can possibly mean some time off school. But it’s treated with simple care – fluids, pain relief, if necessary, and time.
The best prevention is good personal hygiene. Regular hand-washing may reduce chances of getting ill or passing on the infection.
Calpol suspension will reduce temperature, aches and pains. Glycerine Honey and Lemon Linctus is a demulcent and will soothe sore throat.
Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection which infects healthy skin. Symptoms are a rash on the skin, typically the face. They often look like moist, golden crusts stuck on to the skin. An area of redness may develop under each patch. Sometimes affected skin is just red and inflamed – especially if the ‘crust’ is picked off. Children can sometimes get secondary impetigo when the skin is already broken if the child has eczema or another inflammatory skin condition.
Impetigo is highly infectious and typically affects nursery and primary schoolchildren. They should be kept out of chidcare/school until there’s no more blistering or crusting.
TREATMENT: GPs often prescribe an antibiotic cream. If it’s badly infected or your child has a fever or swollen lymph glands they might prescribe an oral antibiotic. Typically, treatment is given for seven to 10 days. Don’t share towels or bath water with someone who’s got it until the infection has gone and try not to touch the affected area.
- Slapped cheek syndrome
The most obvious symptom of this syndrome is a very distinctive red rash on the cheeks, which gives the condition its name. A child with it might feel under the weather, have a runny nose, fever and perhaps a headache too. The viral infection, caused by parvovirus is airbourne and therefore spreads quickly and easily. Children are most contagious before the signs appear.
TREATMENT: There’s no specific treatment apart from regular fluids and pain relief (Calpol/Nurofen suspension) for headaches. It’s usually quite mild and will pass in a few days so children should not have to be taken out of school. However, contact with pregnant women, people with poor immune systems and certain blood disorders should be avoided.
- Hand-foot-and mouth-disease
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, or HFMD, is caused by a virus. Symptoms include a high temperature, ulcers, or sores, inside or around the mouth, and a rash or blisters on the hands, feet, legs, or buttocks. And while it’s not pleasant, it also isn’t serious. Anyone can get the disease, but children under age 10 are most likely to catch it.
Your child can catch hand-foot-and-mouth through contact with someone who has it, or from something that’s been in contact with the virus, like a toy, tabletop, or doorknob. It tends to spread easily once children re-enter childcare and school in the autumn.
Although it is highly contagious taking children out of childcare/school is unlikely to reduce the spread of the virus, so children should return to childcare/school when they are feeling well.
Again personal hygiene is the best prevention as the virus is spread from the hands from contact with the faeces/respiratory secretions.
TREATMENT: Bedding and towels, shared toys and other shared objects should be washed to stop it spreading. Children infected should not share cups or eating utensils and have their own towels and face cloths. There’s no specific treatment apart from regular fluids and Calpol to reduce temperature and pain from mouth sores.
- Head lice
The most obvious sign of head lice is an itchy scalp. Hair should be inspected closely and the tiny eggs and lice are easy to spot. They will live in clean or dirty hair and are easily passed on when children are in close contact at school.
TREATMENT: Once infestation is conﬁrmed head lice can be treated at home either using wet combing with conditioner, or medicated lotions (please ask us for our advice on which one as it will depend on your prior experience and treatment) combined with a special nit comb. Lotions should be applied again seven days later, the rough life cycle of an egg, to reduce the risk of re-infection. Children can attend school with head lice but the teacher should be informed.
- Thread worms
Tell-tale signs of a thread worm infestation are a very itchy bottom area. Threadworms are tiny parasitic worms in the bowel and at night they migrate to this area, lay their eggs and cause irritation. The signs may be seen in underwear or pyjamas and sometimes by an inspection of the bottom. Thread worms are passed from scratching the bottom area then touching the mouth or biting nails. Good hygiene can prevent them spreading.
TREATMENT: Threadworms are easy to get rid of. One dose of Vermox suspension and a second dose two to four weeks later. Bedding and towels should be washed to stop it spreading. It’s not nice but not one that requires any time off school.
- Molluscum contagiosum
These are small lumps on the skin, which are almost wart like. They are round and firm and generally affect children of nursery age upwards. They are contagious but you don’t need to keep children off school.
TREATMENT: They don’t tend to need any treatment unless they get infected, in which case they can be given an antibiotic. The lumps tend to last about 12-18 months. They’re unsightly but don’t do any harm. Towels should not be shared to reduce spread to other family members.
- Tummy bugs
Symptoms are vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. It can last 24 hours or longer and in rare cases can lead to a child being hospitalized, normally due to dehydration. The most common form in young children is rotavirus and for older children norovirus, more commonly known as winter vomiting disease and can last several days. The spread is very swift in a class, children will need time off but can go back 48 hours after symptoms settle.
TREATMENT: Again good hand-washing and personal hygiene is key. If the child has severe vomiting and diarrhoea, they’ll need to replace lost fluids. It’s important to have lots of drinks, even if it’s tiny sips, as well as oral rehydration salts like Dioralyte.