Dealing with common back-to-school illnesses

WATE 6 On Your Side Staff - KNOXVILLE (WATE) - As kids settle back into school, the chances of them getting sick go up because more kids together mean more germs to share. There are a few things parents can do to increase the chances they stay well.

Dr. Heather Edgley with East Tennessee Children's Hospital says the five most common illnesses that spread through schools are:

  • Flu/Cold - The most common illness. Get vaccinated against flu and stay home resting when sick.
  • Pink eye - It may start from an allergic reaction, viral or bacterial infection. An allergic reaction is not contagious and will usually go away on its own. The other two types are easily spread by touching something an infected person has touched, by coughing or sneezing and even sharing a swimming pool.
  • Strep throat - It is a very sore throat accompanied by fever, stomach pain and red, swollen tonsils. It is easily spread through coughing and sneezing, sharing drinks and food, touching something an infected person has touched. Antibiotic treatment is needed.
  • Gastroenteritis (also known as stomach bug) - It causes vomiting and diarrhea and can be caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria, swimming in contaminated water or passed from person to person on hands.
  • Head lice - Lice can be annoying and itchy, but do not cause disease. They can be easily passed from child to child with direct contact. Lice can live on bed linens, clothing, cloth toys, carpets, etc. Eradication requires medicated treatment and a good cleaning of household items.

You should keep your child home from school when he or she has diarrhea or vomiting, fever, is lethargic or unable to play and perform tasks as normal, or has a known contagious illness like those above.

You can vaccinate against common illnesses like the flu, but for the others the best prevention is thorough, frequent hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and teaching kids to never share food or drinks with others.

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