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How to avoid common back-to-school illnesses

Keeping kids healthy during the school year | Texas Children's Hospital
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It’s not surprising that every fall we begin to see an increase in the number of sick patients at Texas Children’s Urgent Care. With kids being in close contact to other students in the classroom, and specific illnesses being more prominent this time of year, children are likely to catch a cold or two. On average, younger school-aged children get six to 12 colds or illnesses each school year.  When children get older, they tend to get fewer illnesses as they gain immunity to some viruses that cause many of these common illnesses. However, with some colds lasting up to 14 days, these children often seek care in our setting as well.

What are some of the common illnesses as schools get back in session?

Colds: Hence its name, the common cold tends to be the most common illness seen throughout the school year. It’s often caused by one of many possible viruses, which means antibiotics are not necessary. Symptoms are most often mild with cough, congestion and runny nose. Occasionally, children will get a sore throat and/or fever with the common cold.

Strep throat: Often causing a sore throat, along with fever, headache and stomachache, this illness is caused by a bacterial infection. It is easily spread from child to child, especially if sharing drinks and eating utensils. Antibiotics are recommended to prevent complications from the infection.

Flu: Unfortunately, as schools get into full swing, so does the flu. It typically causes high fevers and body aches, along with cough, congestion and runny nose. Kids generally need to stay home from school for a few days until the fever subsides and they get their energy back.

Stomach flu: What is often referred to as the stomach flu, gastroenteritis causes vomiting and diarrhea.  This is most commonly caused by a virus affecting the stomach and intestines. It is very common and very contagious. Staying hydrated is key during the stomach flu.

Pink eye: Pink eye (or conjunctivitis) causes red eyes with green or yellow drainage. Eyes might be sealed shut in the morning from crusting of the discharge. If this happens, gently soften and wipe away the discharge with a warm, wet washcloth. Pink eye is highly contagious and can be caused by either a virus or bacteria. Sometimes antibiotic eye drops are necessary to clear the infection.

How to avoid getting sick now that school is in full swing for the year?

Hand-washing! Wash your hands before eating, after using the toilet, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. To properly wash your hands, wet your hands with water, lather them with soap, and scrub your hands together for 20 seconds (the CDC recommends singing or humming the “Happy Birthday” song twice as a timer). Be sure to rinse your hands with water and dry them with a clean towel, or allow them to air dry.

If your child does get sick with one of these common back-to-school illnesses, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician. But what if it is the evening or weekend and you feel your child needs to be seen sooner? We have several urgent care locations open around the city to care for your child during these times and we’re happy to help!

Click here to find your nearest Texas Children’s Urgent Care location

This blog was originally published in October 2017  

Rebecca Frontz, DO