The beginning of the school year is a busy time for parents and children. Along with new clothes, fresh school supplies, new teachers, schedules, and books, back-to-school season can bring health changes. Children are susceptible to many common illnesses associated with close in classrooms.
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Head Lice and Close Contact
Lice are tiny insects that live on human hair and feed on small amounts of blood. When an infestation occurs, lice attach their eggs to the base of your hair shaft. People spread head lice via contact with one another. Head lice do not spread illness, so they’re not usually dangerous.
Symptoms of head lice
- Tickling feeling on your head
- Sores from scratching
- Red bumps on your head
- Difficulty sleeping
How to prevent head lice
Instruct your child to avoid head-to-head contact with other kids, such as when they’re taking selfies. You should not allow your child to share brushes, combs, hair ribbons, or clothing. Head lice are only passed on through direct contact; they can’t jump or fly.
Head lice treatment
Before beginning any treatment for head lice, check with your pediatrician. Doctors often prescribe medication followed by a specific combing method used 8-12 hours after your child has been treated for lice.
When combing your child’s hair, be sure to check for dead lice. If you don’t find any, the medication may not be working and you should contact the pediatrician.
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Pink Eye in School-Age Kids
Pink eye is a highly contagious and common eye infection that often occurs in children. The four main causes of pink eye are viruses, bacteria, allergens, and irritants such as chlorine.
Common pink eye symptoms
The most common symptoms of pink eye are:
- Redness or swelling of the white part of your eye
- Itching, burning, or irritation
- Increased tear production
- Crusting of your eyelashes or eyelids
How to prevent pink eye
Because pink eye is so contagious, the best way to prevent your child from developing it is to encourage them to wash their hands with warm water and soap as often as possible. Your child also should avoid rubbing or touching their eyes throughout the school day.
Treating pink eye
If your child develops pink eye, call your pediatrician to discuss treatment options. Cool compresses can provide relief from symptoms. To avoid spreading pink eye to other members of the household, avoid sharing clothing, blankets, and pillowcases, and wash those items frequently.
Chickenpox in Young Children
Chickenpox is a childhood virus that covers the body in itchy, red spots. Not as common today, chickenpox still appears in school-age children who have not been vaccinated against it. In addition to its telltale red splotches, chickenpox also can cause fever and body aches.
Symptoms of chickenpox
The most common symptoms of chickenpox are:
The best way to prevent children from getting chickenpox is to have them vaccinated. Most people who get the vaccine never develop the condition. Though mainly associated with young children, chickenpox can occur in teens and adults.
Treatment for chickenpox
While there are no medications to treat chickenpox, there are helpful remedies including:
- Calamine lotion and oatmeal baths to help reduce itching
- Cocoa butter and vitamin E oil to prevent scarring
- Acetaminophen for fever and headaches
The Common Cold in the Classroom
The common cold is one of the most contagious illnesses spread in schools. Colds are airborne, but also can be spread through person-to-person contact. In a classroom environment, catching a cold at some point during the school year is highly likely.
Common cold symptoms
Symptoms to look out for in children are:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Loss of appetite
Preventing the common cold
To avoid catching a cold, children should wash their hands often and avoid anyone with cold symptoms.
Treating the common cold
There is no cure for the common cold. As the virus runs its course, be sure that your child gets plenty of rest and drinks lots of fluids. If a child develops a secondary infection, such as an ear infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh ranks consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is a longtime national leader for women and their newborns. We aim to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond.