Many illnesses and routine infections such as coughs and colds can be avoided through good personal hygiene. The importance of teaching your child basic hygiene routines to avoid the transmission of infection cannot be overstated. Encourage your child to wash their hand regularly with soap and water before meals and after visits to the bathroom. Where possible they should avoid sharing towels with other students.
At times, it is difficult for Parents to know when to keep their child at home. The following ailments are the most common for pre school and school children. Advice from HSE.ie is useful for Parents when faced with making a decision to exclude their child from school or a visit to the GP!
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the outer lining of the eye and eyelid and causes a sore or itchy red eye with a watery or sticky discharge. It may be caused by organisms such as bacteria, viruses, or may be due to an allergy (as in hay fever). Treatment depends on the cause but is often by eye drops or ointment. Conjunctivitis caused by bacteria and viruses may be spread by contact with the eye discharge, which gets onto the hands when the child rubs its sore eye.
Impetigo is a skin infection causing blisters, which become golden-crusted. It is mainly caused by bacteria known as staphylococci but may also be caused by streptococci. The fluid in the blister is very infectious, and spread occurs by hand-tohand contact with this fluid as the blister bursts. Good hygiene is essential to prevent spread. Treatment is usually by antibiotic cream and/or oral antibiotic medicine.
This is generally a mild illness, caused by a type of virus known as enterovirus. The child develops a fever and rash with blisters, which appear especially in the mouth and on the hands
and feet. It is spread by direct contact with the secretions of the infected person and by coughing and sneezing. Younger children are more susceptible to infection due to close contact.
Unfortunately the return to school is often shortly followed by an outbreak of headlice. You need to be vigilant and regularly check your child’s head for evidence of lice or eggs – watch out for scratching. Regularly wash and comb out your child’s hair with a nit comb to check for lice and eggs, Unfortunately head lice have become increasingly resistant to different insecticides with recent research estimating that four out of five had lice are now resistant to the treatment used to date.
A few new treatments have come on to the market recently so it is worth talking to your chemist for the most up-to-date advice. In any event, if you find the dreaded lice in your off-springs hair it is important to immediately inform your school so that other parents can be alerted to the need to check and treat their kids if necessary.
The majority of children will have been through the chicken pox illness before they reach primary school – most having contracted it during their time in crèches or playschools. However there will still be a number of children who have been lucky enough to avoid the illness. It is important therefore that a child who contracts chickenpox is kept away from school until the illness passes so as to avoid passing it on to their class mates.
A child with chickenpox is infectious from two to four days before the rash first appears until all the spots have crusted over. The chickenpox illness usually lasts about two weeks.
Influenza is an acute infectious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Influenza can occur throughout the year but usually peaks in winter. Influenza viruses infect the nose, throat and lungs.
The main symptoms are fever (temperature > 38.0C (100.40F), tiredness, chills, dry cough, sore throat, headache, muscle and joint pains.
These illnesses are caused by certain strains of streptococcus bacteria. These bacteria are common (most people will have them at some time in their lives) and cause a number of other diseases including sore throat and skin infections. Although earlier in the century scarlet fever was a dangerous disease, the strains of streptococcus responsible for it at present usually cause only a mild infection.
This takes many forms, but the main symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, which occur singly or in combination. The illness usually lasts only a short time. The common route of spread is by hand-to-mouth and the ingestion of infected foods or liquids. A variety of microorganisms cause illness in children, viruses but while the causes are varied, strict attention to personal hygiene is important to reduce the spread of disease. The common gastrointestinal germs are very infectious and for that reason children who have had diarrhoea should be excluded until 48 hours have elapsed since their last episode of diarrhoea.
For more information and advice, see hse.ie.