07:53 10 September 2009
The new school term is underway and unfortunately your children could well bring back with them more than just new friends. When most children return to school or start for the first time, they pick up illnesses very easily as they are suddenly exposed to hundreds if not thousands more people and their germs than during the holidays.
With the proper precautions however, your child can be better prepared to warn off the illnesses and stay healthy.
We've compiled a list of common classroom ailments your children might face, how to prevent them getting ill and what to do if they do catch something.
Infections of the upper respiratory tract like colds and flu pas from child to child very easily. Spread by touching contaminated surfaces or from breathing in infected air molecules.
How to prevent it
Hand washing is the simplest but most effective way to keep you and your family from developing illnesses. Anti-bacterial disinfectant should be used on all surfaces, not forgetting toys and door handles. The current swine flu pandemic means these precautions should be adhered to more than ever, with anti-bacterial hand gels and alcohol based wipes a useful tool to protect your family as much as possible. Keep your immunity boosted as much as possible with a healthy diet and vitamin supplements to help fight of the bugs. Used tissues should be thrown in the bin too.
As there are many different strains of the cold and flu virus, the likelihood is that your child will get some form of a cold, with some suffering up to eight times in a year. Rest, plenty of fluids and TLC are the best form of treatment. There are many remedies to help reduce the symptoms, always make sure these are suitable for children before administering them though. Keep youngsters at home to aid recovery and avoid spreading the infection further.
These tiny parasites measure just 3mm. They live on the hair and neck feeding on blood through the scalp spreading misery to thousands of children a year. The female lays about six eggs a day, attaching them to the hair near the root, which hatch eight days later. Itchy scalps are the most common symptom, however, they can stay undetected for months by which time the problem is likely to require intensive treatment.
How to prevent it
It is a common myth that head lice are associated with dirty hair, they are just as happy in clean hair. Neither can they jump or fly.
Lice are passed on by close contact, meaning there is little you can do to stop children from catching them. They are most common in three to 11-year-olds. Check hair regularly with a nit comb for early signs of infestation, and inform teachers if lice appear.
Head lice are not harmful but can be extremely distressing for your child, they also are unlikely to disappear without treatment. Using a fine-toothed nit comb, brush wet hair from root to tip, checking for lice on each stroke.
While insecticides can be used to eradicate lice, they should not be used as a preventative measure. They should only be used if lice are seen, but may cause itching. Similarly natural remedies can be effective, but should not be over-used as the lice can build up a resistance to them.
Avoid the spread of lice in the family by refraining from sharing hairbrushes and accessories, soaking them in surgical spirit or similar rubbing alcohol to kill any. Boil wash pillow cases, towels and hats.
This common eye infection can be viral and caused by bacteria. Most often in younger kids, it is caused by a virus such as the common cold, resulting in sore, red, watery eyes which last little longer than a few days.
If eyes feel gritty and sticky, with a yellow, puss-like discharge however, the cause is likely to be a bacterial infection which lasts longer.
How to prevent it
Conjunctivitis spreads in the same way as colds and flu and is extremely contagious, so regular and thorough hand washing is the best defence. Don't allow your child to share towels and face cloths with others, including own family members.
For viral infections, treat with sterile saline drops to rinse the eye and make if feel more comfortable.
If it is a bacterial infection, you will need to consult your GP. They are likely to prescribe antibiotic eye drops or ointment.
Always be vigilant when cleaning children's eyes, taking care not to touch your own. Simply lying on the pillowcase on an infected person can transmit the infection, commonly known as "pink eye", so take precautions.
A red, scab like sore around the nose is usually the first sign of impetigo. It will then leak clear fluid before spreading around the mouth where more sores develop.
How to prevent it
The bacteria lives in the nose of an infected person, often making the nose itchy. In turn, by scratching, picking or rubbing the nose, the child passes the bacteria onto their hands. As always, washing hands is the best way to avoid infection.
It is when the skin is broken that the bacteria can do harm. Be extra careful if your child has cuts or eczema on their face and look after chapped skin. You also need to beware of infection particularly if you have these conditions or have spots.
It is important to take your child to see a doctor if impetigo is suspected as it is another highly contagious ailment.
In mild cases, antibiotic cream applied locally to the spots may be all that is needed, but in more severe cases antibiotic tablets or syrup must be taken. In most cases impetigo heals within a week if treated with antibiotics.
Because the condition is very infectious, children with impetigo must be kept from school or nursery until all the spots have crusted and dried. The spots should be kept as clean and dry as possible. Give them disposable paper towels while they are infected, and make sure they don't share towels or face cloths with others, making sure any used are thoroughly washed afterwards.
To prevent another episode, cuts and scratches need to be kept clean. For children with eczema or other skin conditions, advice should be sought for the best steps.
Adult threadworms are approximately 1cm long and look like little pieces of cotton. They live in the large intestine, but are visible when the female lays eggs in the anal skin around the vagina and urethra, causing severe itching.
How to prevent them
An infected person will scratch their bottom, covering their hand in the eggs, often trapping them under the fingernails. A new infestation is then caused when someone is passed on these eggs through touch or an infected surface and then ends up swallowing them.
Make regular and thorough hand washing a habit with your child, especially before handling and eating food. Also, do not share towels and clothing to avoid contamination.
The moment your child starts scratching their bottom, it is important to be vigilant. The night and first thing in morning is the best time to spot the worms. Check your child's faeces for any signs.
If an infestation is detected, observe strict hygiene across the family, including discouraging thumb sucking and nail biting; keeping nails short; scrubbing under finger nails, especially before and after using the toilet; not eating food in the bedroom; and regular vacuuming to pick up any stray eggs.
A doctor may also prescribe medication which the entire family will need to take at the same time to avoid re-infestation.
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