Posted: Sep 11, 2012 8:00 AM
 
Back to school often means back to getting sick. From pink eye to the flu, find out how to recognize, treat and prevent five of the most common back-to-school bugs.

Now that your kids are back in school and we're back to embracing morning routines (and nightly homework), we must also prepares ourselves for the inevitable: the back-to-school illnesses.

Close quarters, sharing of toys and seasonal viruses lend to this phenomena of those back-to-school bugs. Arm your family with some simple preventive measures and knowledge about some of the most common back-to-school germs.

Colds

This is number one on my back-to-school illness list for good reason. It's the most common and most contagious illness your child will encounter. The good news is that most colds are mild with runny/stuffy nose, mild sore throat and cough. While a bit annoying to your child, she usually is up to going about her day (this includes school).

Just remind your child to sneeze and cough into the crook of her elbow and wash her hands frequently throughout the day to reduce the spread of this virus to her classmates. Any child with a fever of 100.4 F or higher should remain home until they are fever free for 24 hours.

Flu

Unfortunately, it's that time of year... and the various strains of the flu virus start to make its rounds. You'll know your child has this when he is suddenly hit with a high fever (usually over 101 F), has body aches and is unusually tired. Unlike the common cold, the flu will hit your child much harder and likely keep him out of school for a couple of days.

Stomach flu

Also known as gastroenteritis, this virus affects the lining of the GI tract causing pain, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. It's extremely common during the school year. Kids are typically sidelined for a day or two. Hydration is the top priority. Offer your little ones frequent sips of clear liquids to stay on top of it.

Pink eye

Eye discharge is one of those things that makes everybody squirm and start washing their hands religiously. Hand washing is good because this infection is highly contagious and seems to spread like wildfire when kids are in close quarters. Yellow/green eye discharge and waking up with one or both eyes sealed shut are good indications that your child indeed has pink eye (aka bacterial conjunctivitis) and will need antibiotic eye drops prior to returning to school.

Strep throat

This bacterial infection (caused by Group A Strep) causes fever, severe sore throat, headache and loss of appetite. It's highly contagious and needs to be treated with oral antibiotics to prevent serious complications.

Prevention

When it comes to these common back-to-school illnesses, hand washing is one of our best defenses. Washing after playing outside, before eating and after using the restroom with good old soap and water will go far in preventing many of these contagious viruses and bacteria.

Now is the time to ask your child's doctor about the flu shot. Many pediatric offices have already received their seasonal supply.

Remind your children not to share drinking or eating utensils and to sneeze/cough into the crook of their elbows. Carry a travel size hand sanitizer for when soap and water are unavailable. And, don't underestimate the power of sleep, a healthy diet and plenty of exercise to keep their little immune systems in tip top shape.

Dr Mom's Bottom Line^ Yes, back-to-school means back to fighting off the multitude of germs. However, with some simple hand hygiene habits and knowledge of some of the most common illnesses, you and your children will thrive this school year, save for a few necessary sick days.

More on back-to-school

Back to school with healthy habits
The importance of family mealtime
Back-to-school treats for your kid's classroom

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