There is so much excitement when your child start school. They embark on this new adventure in their life. But parents brace yourself – with school comes a guarantee that your child will pick up a bug and bring it home.
School is a breeding ground for all sorts of bugs. Spread via personal contact, transmitted through contaminated surfaces and airborne droplets.
Viruses, parasites, fungi and bacteria spread like wildfire in schools. The thing is, these bugs don’t just infect children. They infect adults too.
No matter how squeaky clean your house and your children are; they may pick up parasites and bugs at school from sharing toys and confined spaces. Then bring it home and infect the rest of the family.
So what are the bugs and parasites that they end up bringing home.
Hand Foot and Mouth Disease
A very common, short-lived viral infection. Often picked up at school via airborne droplets and contaminated toys. It is a highly contagious viral infection. Children will develop fine pink patches on their hands, feet and inside or around the mouth area. This usually happens 5 days after coming into contact with the virus. You will notice that your child will refuse to eat, will be irritable and have a fever.
If your child has hand foot and mouth disease make sure to contact the school immediately so that they can inform other parents to be on the lookout for symptoms. Keep your child at home until the blisters dry up. Give your child lots of fluids to drink to keep him/her hydrated. Unfortunately there is no treatment for this viral infection. Ease fever and pain with ibuprofen.
Playschools are breeding grounds for stomach bugs. Contracted when children share eating utensils, cups and toys. Symptoms are pain in the stomach, a fever and usually no appetite. Some children vomit and have diarrhea whilst others only have diarrhea. Give your child lots of fluids to prevent dehydration but stay clear from acidic drinks. Use over the counter medication to stop stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. This bug usually clears within 24 hours.
Remembering as if it was yesterday how a 2 year old infected me with chickenpox when I was 21. Then when my eldest daughter started playschool she contracted chicken pox. Infecting her then six month old sister. There is a vaccine available for chickenpox. However our pediatrician advised us not to vaccinate our girls against chicken pox. It is healthier for a child’s immune system to contract certain viruses than to immunize against it.
The incubation period for this virus is usually 21 days. It is highly contagious within 48 hours before symptoms appear. Symptoms include red itchy blisters and a fever. Only once scabs develop on the blisters is it no longer contagious. There is really no treatment for chickenpox other than using paracetamol for pain and fever as calamine lotion to alleviate the itch.
Children not vaccinated against mumps are at a higher risk. It takes up to 15 days after being into contact with someone with mumps for symptoms to appear. Should your child contract mumps, you need to alert the school immediately. Mumps are highly contagious. I contracted bumps when I was 40 and it was the worst. Symptoms include swelling of the salivary glands, dry mouth, fever, aching body and fatigue.
Boys might experience swollen testicles. Pregnant women in their first trimester should be cautious as contracting mumps could lead to miscarriage. This viral infection can last between 12 – 18 days. However if you are an adult and contract mumps the recovery period can be longer. Some adults may still have post viral syndrome months after the mumps virus cleared. There is no treatment for mumps. Use ibuprofen or paracetamol to alleviate pain.
Measles (Rubeola) and German Measles (Rubella)
Measles is a virus that infects the respiratory system. Children not immunized against measles are at a higher risk of being infected. Spread through airborne droplets from coughing, sneezing and talking. The incubation period for measles is 10 – 14 days after which a red rash appears. Common symptoms include a rash, high fever, runny nose, coughing, sore throat, diarrhea and watery eyes. It is common for children to develop ear infections when they have measles. Measles could lead to complications like meningitis, conjunctivitis, blindness, pneumonia and death. Call your doctor immediately once you notice that the symptoms are getting worse.
German measles is caused by a virus that infects the lymph nodes, skin and eyes. Also spread through airborne droplets from coughing, sneezing and talking. A red rash with a white center forms on the skin. Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph nodes, runny nose, headaches, muscle pain and inflamed eyes. A milder form of measles, however pregnant women should be cautious. Pregnant women who are in their first and second trimester should be careful not to come into contact with those who have german measles. This could cause miscarriage, preterm labour or birth defects.
There is no treatment for both types of measles, however your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic if a bacterial infection develops while you or your child have measles. Should there be no complications, conditions will improve within two weeks.
TB is a highly contagious bacterial infection. If not caught early it will spread. Transmitted via airborne droplets through coughing and sneezing. Children not immunized against TB are at a higher risk of being infected. The incubation period varies from 2 – 12 weeks but can sometimes be up to a year before symptoms start developing. Known symptoms are persistent coughing, fever, night sweats, lethargy and weight loss.
In rare cases hospitalisation is necessary but TB is usually treated with prescribed oral medication. It is vital that the full course of medication be taken to cure the disease. Once a patient start with treatment, the disease is no longer contagious.
This is a bacterial infection caused by inflammation to the back of the throat. Transmitted via airborne droplets or sharing utensils or drinking cups. Symptoms include a sore throat, red tonsils and swollen neck glands. Children are booked off from school for a day or two and is treated with antibiotics.
A skin infection whereby red bumps or blisters form on the skin. A fever can also develop. Usually spread via skin contact. Children with impetigo should not attend school. Treated with antibiotics. Within 24 hours after taking the medication, the impetigo is no longer contagious.
Conjunctivitis is an infection to the eyelid. Transmitted via hand-eye-contact. Whereby contaminated hands rub or touches the eyes. Symptoms include red, crusty and itchy eyes. Bacterial conjunctivitis is highly contagious. It has a yellow discharge caused by bacteria and treated with antibiotics. Conjunctivitis should clear within a few days. Viral conjunctivitis will clear on its own.
Luckily my girls have not yet picked up lice. But I squirm every time, they come home with a letter indicating that we need to check their head as someone in a grade had lice. Frantically checking their hair and washing it immediately.
Lice cannot jump or fly so the only way of contaminating your head is via head-to-head contact. Sharing brushes, combs, hats and pillows. Symptoms of lice include itchy scalp, neck and behind the ears. Use a fine tooth comb to check your child’s hair and use a bright light to shine on the scalp. If your child has lice you will notice small nits or crawling insects on your child’s scalp. Head lice are highly contagious, so make sure to contact the school immediately so that they can inform other parents. Head lice can be treated with over the counter shampoo. Make sure that you check all family members hair for lice, wash all clothes and bedding in hot water and dry at high heat, vacuum beds and floors.
An infection of mites that burrow into the skin. Scabies live off the skin for up to a week. Causing a rash between the fingers, between the toes, around the wrist and elbows. To rid of the mites everyone in the house should be treated with a prescription cream or lotion. All clothing and bedding should be washed in hot water and dried at high heat.
When children come into contact with other children who may have pin worms, they can contract it. They might touch a toy with pin worm eggs on it when they’re playing with other children or even eat the eggs without even knowing it. Yes, it does sound gross but this is the way it is contracted. Symptoms include itchy anal area, pin worms in stools and being restless due to itching in the anal area. It is best that everyone in the house be treated for pin worms by taking an oral medication.
An infection caused by a fungus and not a worm. Children usually contract this by playing in infected soil that are found in sand pits, by playing with animals or touching someone who is already infected. Common symptom is a rash in a shape of a ring that is itchy and flaky. Treated with topical anti-fungal medication or cream.
This is picked up around the swimming pool or gym area. The same as a ring worm but it appears on the foot area. Treated with topical anti-fungal medication or cream.
Teaching your child good hygiene
Although contracting all sorts of bugs can’t be prevented at all times, you can lower the risk by teaching your child good hygiene. These include:
- Teach them to cover their mouths or noses with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing and to wash their hands immediately afterwards.
- To wash their hands when they’ve played outside. touched toys, before and after eating, after petting and stroking animals.
- Make sure that they know that they need to wash their hands after every toilet visit.
- Keep your child’s nails short and clean.
- Teach them not to put toys in their mouths.
- It is important that they know not to share hats, hair brushes, combs, toothbrushes and eating utensils.
- Prevent kissing and hugging.
- Check that their school bags are clean.
Make sure the school practices good hygiene
It is important that you know that good hygiene is practiced at your child school.
- Make sure that they clean and sterilize all toys.
- That the sandpit is regularly cleaned.
- Classrooms need to be cleaned on a daily basis.
- Classrooms should be well ventilated.
- Toilets should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
- That hand sanitizers are available.
- No sharing of pillows during sleeping routine.
- That mattresses are clean and rid of bed bugs.
- Bedding and towels should be washed regularly.
- If your child gets a prepared meal at school, make sure that the kitchen is clean.
- That good hygiene is practiced in the school kitchen where the food is prepared and that no cross contamination takes place.
- Make sure they do pest control that is not harmful to children.
- Ensure that they have first aid kits to deal with cuts, scrapes and wounds.
Make sure that your child’s vaccines are up to date. In addition to protecting your children, make sure that the adults are protected as well. In conclusion there is absolutely no need to be paranoid or to go in a frenzy, just be calm and make sure that you take control of these bugs. Good luck!