A schoolroom can be a breeding ground for childhood illnesses. The classrooms are clean and orderly, but placing twenty children in a room increases the opportunity for sickness to spread. All it takes is one child arriving to school with symptoms of illness, and before you know it, your child who left home healthy steps off the school bus with a fever.
Below are 10 common illnesses that kids might pick up in school.
- Chicken Pox
Chickenpox is a childhood disease that’s nearly been eradicated with the introduction of the chickenpox vaccination in 1995. Prior to that time, four million kids in the United States suffered every year from the disease. Cases have fallen exponentially since the vaccine; however, unvaccinated kids are still susceptible to the viral infection that causes itchy, fluid-filled blisters to rise on the skin. It is highly contagious and uncomfortable.
- Hand foot and mouth disease
Hand foot and mouth disease is a viral infection that kids in close proximity can pick up from one another. A rash and sores appear in the mouth, on the hands, feet and even on the buttocks. There’s nothing you can do to treat the disease though symptoms can be treated if your child is uncomfortable. For instance, if the condition is accompanied by a fever, ask your doctor about an over the counter medication that will lower his fever. Dress the child in lightweight clothing and keep them cool.
Encourage your child to wash their hands frequently at school to avoid hand foot and mouth disease. Additionally, do not expose your child to others with the condition, as it’s highly contagious.
- Impetigo is a skin infection that appears with reddish sores that will primarily surround the nose and mouth. Hands and feet are also targets of impetigo that is characterized by crusty sores, when the previous reddish sores crust over and burst. Impetigo is treated with antibiotics and is highly contagious; Keep kids with impetigo home from school to prevent spreading. Children are no longer contagious following twenty-four-hour antibiotic treatments.
- Mononucleosis isn’t as contagious as other infections. It is contracted through saliva, which is why it is commonly known as the kissing disease. While saliva is the culprit that carries the disease, it’s not always transmitted through kissing. Kids can pick up mononucleosis, also known as mono, by sharing food or when they’re in close proximity to a contagious person’s sneeze or a cough. Fatigue, fever, skin rash, inflamed tonsils, and sore throat are all symptoms. It generally takes 4-6 weeks to get rid of the disease for adolescents. For younger children, it can be much shorter.
- Meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial infection is thankfully rare. The disease affects the membranes covering the spinal chord and brain. Without treatment, serious complications can arise and the disease that causes membranes to swell can cause brain damage or even death. Kids are at greater risk for the disease. The risk increases with exposure. Symptoms include malaise, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting, joint pain. If a rash appears on your child that is purplish, this could be a sign of blood poisoning that accompanies meningococcal meningitis. Seek immediate medical attention.
- Measles, like chicken pox, is a childhood disease that has been nearly eradicated since the introduction of a vaccine, which was distributed in 1968. However, there’s been a resurgence of the disease due to parents choosing not to vaccinate their children. Prior to the vaccine, the virus was responsible for killing over 100,000 persons per year. Most of that number was made up of children who were less than 5-years of age.
A fever and tiny spots are the signature characteristics of measles. Spots are bluish white on a field of red and appear on the inside of the cheeks and around the lining of the mouth. An itchy rash will cover the body. The rash is flat and blotchy and spread into one another. Seek medical attention immediately if you feel your child has been exposed to measles and especially if they’re showing signs.
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis) occurs when the conjunctiva (tissue covering the white part of the eye and lines the inner eyelid) becomes inflamed. The eye turns pink to bright red. It is highly contagious but clears up with medical intervention with no long-term negative effects. Your child’s eyes may itch and show signs of thick mucus that can be wiped gently away with a warm washcloth. Take your child to the doctor to determine if her conjunctivitis is bacterial or viral. Bacterial pink eye will be treated with antibiotics. Symptoms clear up fairly quickly, within a few days.
- Mumps is caused by a virus and is highly contagious. It is painful for a lot of children, swelling cheeks and jaws. Swollen salivary glands are the cause of the swelling. However, some kids experience less discomfort than others. Symptoms include fever, extreme fatigue, head and muscle aches and often a loss of appetite. Recovery can be expected within a few weeks. Mumps can be prevented through vaccination. It is included in the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Vaccine (MMR).
- Pertussis (a whooping cough) is a serious illness. Children and teens that are exposed to the disease will contract pertussis within 5-10 days following exposure.
When your child’s symptoms first appear, you might think they’re catching a cold that is accompanied with a light cough, fever and a runny nose. However, severe symptoms will appear and will include terrible bouts of rapid coughing that makes it difficult to catch a breath. Vomiting after coughing and exhaustion following the coughing fits can be expected. Very little children may not cough at all. Parents should be careful to pay close attention to their child’s breathing since pertussis can cause it to stop abruptly. Pertussis can be treated with antibiotics, but early treatment is important. Children, who receive one of the two-pertussis vaccines available, are less likely to contract pertussis. The DTaP vaccine is a protection for young children against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.
The Tdap vaccine is a protection for teens and adults and includes protection against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.
- Strep throat is painful. It is a bacterial infection that inflames the throat and causes it to turn very red. It is not your normal run of the mill sore throat. Strep throat is common in children and is very contagious. Gone untreated, strep can be extremely dangerous, leading to rheumatic fever and heart damage. Symptoms include painful swallowing, fever, various body aches and pain with nausea and vomiting. Call your child’s pediatrician when symptoms occur, especially when symptoms include a fever that is more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit or if it lasts more than a couple of days. Your child’s doctor will conduct a test to determine if your child is suffering from a regular sore throat or from strep. He will order a throat culture to find out if bacteria are present. A rapid antigen test might also be administered. This also involves a throat swab.
All of the diseases above can be prevented. Some are prevented by vaccine, but simple actions can also prevent the disease from spreading. Washing hands frequently and keeping your child home from school when they are sick will cut down on infections that spread at school.