Back to School Illnesses…Please Don’t Spread the Lovebugs

On Monday, Queenie over at Planet Pink graciously hosted my post about the back to school “lovebugs”. I am re-posting it here today with a few additions because it seems some of these illnesses are sweeping through our school. As it stands, we have already had 3 absences in our short 4 weeks into Kindergarten and preschool.

First of all realize it’s inevitable. Children will get sick. I have yet to meet a child in school who went the whole school year without coming down with something. That being said, there are measures we can take to lessen the chances of our children falling prey to some of these viruses.

First, I will outline 5 of the most common culprits causing illness in the preschool and school age child during Fall and Winter. Then I will give you some practical tips on containing these viral bugs.

Hand Foot Mouth Disease: This is most commonly caused by the coxsackie virus and peaks in the summer and early Fall. This virus affects mostly young children (children under 10). The symptoms consist of a fever, decreased appetite, and sore throat. Usually painful mouth sores develop on the tongue, inside of cheeks and back of throat. This may or may not be accompanied by the non-itchy skin rash on palms and soles of feet.

The Common Cold: Your child may be afflicted with this a few times a year. The most common culprit here is the rhinovirus though there are several different viral strains producing symptoms of the common cold. Hence, several colds can be caught during one season. The symptoms vary but most commonly include: stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, mild fever, and sneezing.

The Flu: Ahh…the dreaded flu. Influenza and it’s various strains cause the dreaded flu symptoms. As opposed to the common cold, the flu gives more pronounced and severe symptoms: high fever (usually over 100.4), sudden onset of symptoms, profound body aches, headache, and general malaise with decreased appetite. With the common cold, respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, congestion and cough are more prominent than in the flu. So far, the only preventive medical defense we have against this is the seasonal flu shot. This year, the CDC reports that there will be a trivalent seasonal flu shot to include the H1N1 strain as well as two other influenza strains. These should be available at the end of September.

Strep Throat: Unlike the above conditions, this one is caused by a bacteria (Group A Strep.) and not a virus. So, this must be treated with antibiotics. So how do you tell the difference from a common sore throat (viral pharyngitis) and strep throat? Here are the key differences: strep throat involves a higher fever (usually above 101 F), red and swollen throat with possible pus formation, absence of cough, and swollen lymph nodes in neck. Strep throat may also be accompanied by abdominal pain, possible vomiting, and a body rash.

Gastroenteritis aka the “stomach flu” is caused by several different types of viruses, most notably rotavirus and adenovirus. The most prominent symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea. Some children may only have the vomiting, some only the diarrhea, and the unlucky ones will have both. This may be accompanied by fever and stomach ache. Having the so-called “stomach flu” does not mean you have the “flu” as in influenza.

I picked the above 5 conditions because they are by far the most common this time of year and they are highly contagious. There is just no way around it. Okay, so having thrown all that at you, what can you do to help minimize and contain these nasty viruses?

  1. Frequent hand washing is the number one way to help prevent the spread of these bugs. Encourage and teach your child to wash their hands several times throughout the day. Before eating, after using the potty, after playing outside, etc. Have them sing a song while washing to make sure they wash long enough (ABC song is a good one).
  2. Carry sanitizer. I always wipe my kids’ hands as soon as they get into the car from school. This time of year, it’s just a good habit. Wipe down shopping cart handles too.
  3. Encourage children to sneeze and cough into their arms or a tissue.
  4. Keep children home if they have a fever, are vomiting, or have significant diarrhea. Of special note: keep them home if they have eye drainage, this could signify a conjunctivitis and should be evaluated by a doctor.
  5. Teach them not to share drinking cups or utensils with their friends.
  6. By all means, sanitize the toys and personal items in your house after a bout with any of the above.
  7. Make sure your children get enough sleep, eat well balanced meals, and exercise regularly. All of these will help insure that their immune systems stay in tip top shape.

Treatment: Since the above, with the exception of strep throat, are caused by viruses, antibiotics will not help. Keep your child comfortable by treating their fever with a fever reducer. Give plenty of fluids and rest. With the stomach flu, keep your child’s diet bland and make sure they stay hydrated with small and frequent amounts of liquids.

Possible Complications: Secondary infections can set in following colds or the flu. Ear infections and pneumonia are common secondary infections. Watch for fever recurrence, chest pain, difficulty breathing, or worsening cough. Dehydration can set in following a bout of gastroenteritis. Stay on top of your child’s liquid intake. These conditions should be evaluated by your child’s pediatrician.

Do not hesitate to contact your child’s pediatrician whenever you’re concerned or have questions regarding your child’s health.

Good Luck to all of you this Fall and Winter season. Unfortunately, these bugs will make their way into our households just make sure your child gets plenty of rest, fluids, and love.

We’ve already battled a short bout of gastroenteritis and a nagging cold. How about you? Have your children been afflicted by any of these back to school bugs yet?

58 Responses to Back to School Illnesses…Please Don’t Spread the Lovebugs
  1. ZippyChix
    September 17, 2010 | 4:53 am

    Thanks for those great reminders. My highschooler just left for school with a slight cough….I hear that it is going around his school. Glad that it is the weekend!! We had the flu shot a few weeks ago before my daughter went to college. Our local pharmacy was offering it. I know that it covered 2 types of flu, I am just hoping it is the same shot that you were talking about. I think that I will check the paperwork. Happy Weekend!

  2. ZippyChix
    September 17, 2010 | 4:53 am

    Thanks for those great reminders. My highschooler just left for school with a slight cough….I hear that it is going around his school. Glad that it is the weekend!! We had the flu shot a few weeks ago before my daughter went to college. Our local pharmacy was offering it. I know that it covered 2 types of flu, I am just hoping it is the same shot that you were talking about. I think that I will check the paperwork. Happy Weekend!

  3. Mrs.Mayhem
    September 17, 2010 | 5:48 am

    Thanks for these tips. I always wonder at what point to take my children to the doctor to be tested for strep throat?

    Yep, my new kindergartener has her first cold right now.

  4. Mrs.Mayhem
    September 17, 2010 | 5:48 am

    Thanks for these tips. I always wonder at what point to take my children to the doctor to be tested for strep throat?

    Yep, my new kindergartener has her first cold right now.

  5. Lynn
    September 17, 2010 | 6:39 am

    Audrey's only been in school for a few weeks and she's already had one cold and the stomach flu. And I've heard that hand foot and mouth is going around. Seems like everyone is getting sick very early this year.

  6. Lynn
    September 17, 2010 | 6:39 am

    Audrey's only been in school for a few weeks and she's already had one cold and the stomach flu. And I've heard that hand foot and mouth is going around. Seems like everyone is getting sick very early this year.

  7. Kristin
    September 17, 2010 | 8:00 am

    Ellie had a stomach bug a few days after the precshool open house. Her first time sick since December!

    We will be first in line for flu shots. ;)

  8. Booyah's Momma
    September 17, 2010 | 9:08 am

    These are good tips… thank you! I had never heard of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease until one of my kids came down with it at preschool. It really scared me at first until I figured out what it was… wish I would have read something like this before then!

  9. April K.
    September 17, 2010 | 9:18 am

    I've had my first round of the G.I. bug – which I'm sure I picked up at work – and my kids have each had strep and colds already. Let the fun begin! :(

  10. April K.
    September 17, 2010 | 9:18 am

    I've had my first round of the G.I. bug – which I'm sure I picked up at work – and my kids have each had strep and colds already. Let the fun begin! :(

  11. Sherri
    September 17, 2010 | 10:10 am

    These tips are awesome, and I hope people take them seriously! Working at an elementary school I see SO many people just rush to send their kids in, telling them “Just go to the nurse!”. Well, there IS no nurse there everyday, and these poor kids lie down on the couch with nobody to take care of them except the secretary. It's sad, and it affects others who also get sick.

    Thanks for the great post!

  12. Sherri
    September 17, 2010 | 10:10 am

    These tips are awesome, and I hope people take them seriously! Working at an elementary school I see SO many people just rush to send their kids in, telling them “Just go to the nurse!”. Well, there IS no nurse there everyday, and these poor kids lie down on the couch with nobody to take care of them except the secretary. It's sad, and it affects others who also get sick.

    Thanks for the great post!

  13. Cheryl D.
    September 17, 2010 | 10:10 am

    What? I'm not supposed to take my daughter to school if she's vomiting? What kind of namby-pamby society are we living in?

    Hehe! Great post, as always! My daughter just started school on Monday. So far, so good–illness-wise

  14. Cheryl D.
    September 17, 2010 | 10:10 am

    What? I'm not supposed to take my daughter to school if she's vomiting? What kind of namby-pamby society are we living in?

    Hehe! Great post, as always! My daughter just started school on Monday. So far, so good–illness-wise

  15. Licia
    September 17, 2010 | 10:11 am

    Yes! I think the only thing I do not like about going back to school is having all the bugs around. My youngest ends up getting everything that his brother brings home from school, so it's never a fun time.

  16. Licia
    September 17, 2010 | 10:11 am

    Yes! I think the only thing I do not like about going back to school is having all the bugs around. My youngest ends up getting everything that his brother brings home from school, so it's never a fun time.

  17. Michelle @Flying Giggles
    September 17, 2010 | 11:27 am

    Oh yes, I saw this guest post on Planet Pink. And right after, my Chloe came down sick. But, I think it is from the dairy she ate last weekend. She is sensitive to dairy and can handle small amounts, but I think she went a bit overboard at her birthday party.

    Thanks for the post, with school and sports staring up, these are great reminders.

  18. Magic Ear Kids
    September 17, 2010 | 11:41 am

    Ugh! Knock on wood, fingers crossed and all of that we're staying strong so far.

  19. Barb @ 1SentenceDiary
    September 17, 2010 | 12:03 pm

    Hmm… I'm going to take a slightly contrarian opinion here, in a very small way.

    I know I'm kind of a “laid back mom” but I just can't get into the whole “hand sanitizer – sanitize the toys at home” thing. I don't even have the foggiest idea how to sanitize toys!

    Of course, I don't want my kids (or anyone else) to get sick. Hand washing is a regular practice for all of us, and we get new toothbrushes after a bout of strep throat or something similar. I'm all for eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking care of ourselves, too. But sometimes I think the focus on anti-bacterial soap and sanitizing everything is just overkill.

    My brothers and I were always filthy (playing in the mud, etc.) and we all survived it. :-) A little dirt never hurt anyone, LOL.

    And sanitizer or not, I hope you and yours all remain very healthy!

  20. Barb @ 1SentenceDiary
    September 17, 2010 | 12:03 pm

    Hmm… I'm going to take a slightly contrarian opinion here, in a very small way.

    I know I'm kind of a “laid back mom” but I just can't get into the whole “hand sanitizer – sanitize the toys at home” thing. I don't even have the foggiest idea how to sanitize toys!

    Of course, I don't want my kids (or anyone else) to get sick. Hand washing is a regular practice for all of us, and we get new toothbrushes after a bout of strep throat or something similar. I'm all for eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking care of ourselves, too. But sometimes I think the focus on anti-bacterial soap and sanitizing everything is just overkill.

    My brothers and I were always filthy (playing in the mud, etc.) and we all survived it. :-) A little dirt never hurt anyone, LOL.

    And sanitizer or not, I hope you and yours all remain very healthy!

  21. Colleen
    September 17, 2010 | 12:04 pm

    School's only been in session two weeks, and we already had a cold go through the family.I did keep my son home for a day. He didn't have a fever, but I still didn't want him to go spread his germs to everyone else.

  22. Colleen
    September 17, 2010 | 12:04 pm

    School's only been in session two weeks, and we already had a cold go through the family.I did keep my son home for a day. He didn't have a fever, but I still didn't want him to go spread his germs to everyone else.

  23. Betsy (zen-mama.com)
    September 17, 2010 | 12:25 pm

    A very timely post! Hand washing works so well. Last year our preschool initiated a new programs where the kids wash their hands when they first entered the school. We hardly had any sickness last year.

  24. Betsy (zen-mama.com)
    September 17, 2010 | 12:25 pm

    A very timely post! Hand washing works so well. Last year our preschool initiated a new programs where the kids wash their hands when they first entered the school. We hardly had any sickness last year.

  25. The Planet Pink
    September 17, 2010 | 12:26 pm

    I'm glad you reposted this! It's worth another read! As I mentioned on my blog, I had 2 kids home sick from school the very day you guest posted. *roll eyes* It appears to have hit early here. Fortunately it was just a brief G.I issue that didn't spread to anyone else. Usually, with as many kids in school as I've got, I expect at LEAST one G.I. bug to sweep through the house each season. And often it seems like there's always SOMEONE in the house with the sniffles or a cough during the winter. Such is our life. LOL

    I do have a question though – Princess #1 missed a week of school two years ago to pneumonia. Then, the next year she had a cold that nearly turned into pneumonia, but we caught it quickly. My question is, is that a coincidence, or are some people more predisposed to respiratory illnesses turning into pneumonia? Should we keep a closer eye on her during an average cold?

  26. The Planet Pink
    September 17, 2010 | 12:26 pm

    I'm glad you reposted this! It's worth another read! As I mentioned on my blog, I had 2 kids home sick from school the very day you guest posted. *roll eyes* It appears to have hit early here. Fortunately it was just a brief G.I issue that didn't spread to anyone else. Usually, with as many kids in school as I've got, I expect at LEAST one G.I. bug to sweep through the house each season. And often it seems like there's always SOMEONE in the house with the sniffles or a cough during the winter. Such is our life. LOL

    I do have a question though – Princess #1 missed a week of school two years ago to pneumonia. Then, the next year she had a cold that nearly turned into pneumonia, but we caught it quickly. My question is, is that a coincidence, or are some people more predisposed to respiratory illnesses turning into pneumonia? Should we keep a closer eye on her during an average cold?

  27. Missy @ Wonder, Friend
    September 17, 2010 | 12:28 pm

    We've already had our first cold. I feel like it could be a long virus season here, as my toddler licks almost everything he sees. We thought about keeping a list of Things P Licks, but decided it would be way too depressing and disgusting!

  28. Missy @ Wonder, Friend
    September 17, 2010 | 12:28 pm

    We've already had our first cold. I feel like it could be a long virus season here, as my toddler licks almost everything he sees. We thought about keeping a list of Things P Licks, but decided it would be way too depressing and disgusting!

  29. Dalia - Gen X Mom
    September 17, 2010 | 1:42 pm

    One of the the things I dread about this time of year is all the illness going around. Crazy we can get through an entire summer with nothing then BAM. Last year we dealt with the H1N1. It was a long few months of that anxiety. All three of my kids got it. Talk about nerve wracking. I am hoping and praying for a healthy fall and winter this year.

  30. Dalia - Gen X Mom
    September 17, 2010 | 1:42 pm

    One of the the things I dread about this time of year is all the illness going around. Crazy we can get through an entire summer with nothing then BAM. Last year we dealt with the H1N1. It was a long few months of that anxiety. All three of my kids got it. Talk about nerve wracking. I am hoping and praying for a healthy fall and winter this year.

  31. Laura Elliott
    September 17, 2010 | 5:00 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I've just been through a bad run with my toddler. Is it possible to be too clean though? I've always thought that exposure to germs was an important part of boosting immunity. I've never really bought into hand sanitizers, anti bacterial products etc. I do believe in basic handwashing/cleanliness, don't get me wrong I just wonder if sometimes we take it too far.

  32. Laura Elliott
    September 17, 2010 | 5:00 pm

    Thanks for the tips. I've just been through a bad run with my toddler. Is it possible to be too clean though? I've always thought that exposure to germs was an important part of boosting immunity. I've never really bought into hand sanitizers, anti bacterial products etc. I do believe in basic handwashing/cleanliness, don't get me wrong I just wonder if sometimes we take it too far.

  33. Making It Work Mom
    September 17, 2010 | 7:03 pm

    Great post! I just wanted to add a couple of other tips from my perspective of being a Daycare Administrator for the past 10 years.
    *When parents enter their child's school they should wash/sanitize their hands. Parents often forget how many germs they carry in from mass transit or their own VERY GERMY offices. At our centers we keep hand sanitizers in convenient locations outside the door of the classrooms.
    *All daycares should clean and sanitize their toys on a daily or even more frequent basis. Many centers also have a cleaning crew that visits their center on a daily basis. Check with your daycare center though and ask if they sanitize their doorknobs, light switches, etc on a daily or more frequent basis.
    *And I totally agree that keeping your child home that one extra day will save you time in the long run. I always use to tell my new parents take that extra day this week becuase if you don't I guarantee you will be taking 2 days next week when your child is sick again.
    Thanks for all the tips!

  34. Making It Work Mom
    September 17, 2010 | 7:03 pm

    Great post! I just wanted to add a couple of other tips from my perspective of being a Daycare Administrator for the past 10 years.
    *When parents enter their child's school they should wash/sanitize their hands. Parents often forget how many germs they carry in from mass transit or their own VERY GERMY offices. At our centers we keep hand sanitizers in convenient locations outside the door of the classrooms.
    *All daycares should clean and sanitize their toys on a daily or even more frequent basis. Many centers also have a cleaning crew that visits their center on a daily basis. Check with your daycare center though and ask if they sanitize their doorknobs, light switches, etc on a daily or more frequent basis.
    *And I totally agree that keeping your child home that one extra day will save you time in the long run. I always use to tell my new parents take that extra day this week becuase if you don't I guarantee you will be taking 2 days next week when your child is sick again.
    Thanks for all the tips!

  35. Liz
    September 18, 2010 | 6:12 am

    Both years so far, the girls had back to back head colds right off the bat. :)

  36. Liz
    September 18, 2010 | 6:12 am

    Both years so far, the girls had back to back head colds right off the bat. :)

  37. Melinda
    September 18, 2010 | 7:11 am

    Great tips, Melissa .. are you a doctor or something?! ;0) Since my son has CF, I am always especially nervous this time of year. And since boys typically don't care all that much about cleanliness, it can be a challenge to do all the prevention tips. That's when I just pray. ;0)

  38. Melinda
    September 18, 2010 | 7:11 am

    Great tips, Melissa .. are you a doctor or something?! ;0) Since my son has CF, I am always especially nervous this time of year. And since boys typically don't care all that much about cleanliness, it can be a challenge to do all the prevention tips. That's when I just pray. ;0)

  39. Dana @ Bungalow'56
    September 18, 2010 | 7:59 am

    If I could, I would send them in a plastic bubble to school. But since I think that would be frowned upon I will refer to your suggestions, thank you for these tips.
    Dana

  40. Tammy
    September 18, 2010 | 6:04 pm

    I'm so glad I stopped by ! I'm a mom to 5 ! I could always use some tips on how to keep my kids healthy !!!
    I'm your newest follower and will be stopping by often !

  41. Michaela (aka Mama Michie)
    September 18, 2010 | 7:45 pm

    We just just got through a round of sickness here in our house and I'm not looking forward to seeing it anytime soon! I'm pretty sure we caught our bug from a family in our playgroup… fun times. ;) Thanks for the tips!

  42. Michaela (aka Mama Michie)
    September 18, 2010 | 7:45 pm

    We just just got through a round of sickness here in our house and I'm not looking forward to seeing it anytime soon! I'm pretty sure we caught our bug from a family in our playgroup… fun times. ;) Thanks for the tips!

  43. Alana, Author of Domestically Challenged
    September 19, 2010 | 7:48 pm

    Oh, man, love this post! This year I am teaching 6th graders and they leave a lot to be desired in the personal hygiene arena. In fact, I just stocked up on my supplies – Lysol, disinfecting wipes, room spray. I wish I could buy a poster on how to sneeze and cough – it would be SOOOO helpful!!

  44. Alana, Author of Domestically Challenged
    September 19, 2010 | 7:48 pm

    Oh, man, love this post! This year I am teaching 6th graders and they leave a lot to be desired in the personal hygiene arena. In fact, I just stocked up on my supplies – Lysol, disinfecting wipes, room spray. I wish I could buy a poster on how to sneeze and cough – it would be SOOOO helpful!!

  45. Jill
    September 20, 2010 | 1:35 pm

    Something to look forward to for me :) My son got sick a day after his first music class. Fortunately, he's an ox. Great tips, thank you!

  46. Jill
    September 20, 2010 | 1:35 pm

    Something to look forward to for me :) My son got sick a day after his first music class. Fortunately, he's an ox. Great tips, thank you!

  47. Cheryl
    September 20, 2010 | 1:42 pm

    The kids had colds right before school started. They're overachievers. Anyway, I fear the stomach flu like no other. We had it a few years ago, and when I say we, I mean all of us, and my poor husband ended up in the ER because he could not stop vomiting and was starting to hallucinate!

  48. Cheryl
    September 20, 2010 | 1:42 pm

    The kids had colds right before school started. They're overachievers. Anyway, I fear the stomach flu like no other. We had it a few years ago, and when I say we, I mean all of us, and my poor husband ended up in the ER because he could not stop vomiting and was starting to hallucinate!

  49. WhisperingWriter
    September 20, 2010 | 8:24 pm

    Great reminders.

    My daughter just got over a cold. I am not looking forward to fevers. I hope it doesn't happen. *Knocks on wood*

  50. WhisperingWriter
    September 20, 2010 | 8:24 pm

    Great reminders.

    My daughter just got over a cold. I am not looking forward to fevers. I hope it doesn't happen. *Knocks on wood*

  51. MommaKiss
    September 21, 2010 | 3:31 am

    So helpful! my kids have been in daycare since 4 months old…we're no strangers to the little carrier monkeys.

  52. MommaKiss
    September 21, 2010 | 3:31 am

    So helpful! my kids have been in daycare since 4 months old…we're no strangers to the little carrier monkeys.

  53. Annette
    September 21, 2010 | 12:13 pm

    I needed these great reminders…we've already encountered a few of these bugs from daycare. Not fun! I hope your family stays happy and healthy this season!

  54. Annette
    September 21, 2010 | 12:13 pm

    I needed these great reminders…we've already encountered a few of these bugs from daycare. Not fun! I hope your family stays happy and healthy this season!

  55. The Empress
    September 22, 2010 | 2:12 pm

    I have to laugh, sometimes I forget you are a pediatrician. I'm like, whaaa? how does she know all this.

    Duh. forgot. Mom is a Doc.

    xo

  56. The Empress
    September 22, 2010 | 2:12 pm

    I have to laugh, sometimes I forget you are a pediatrician. I'm like, whaaa? how does she know all this.

    Duh. forgot. Mom is a Doc.

    xo

  57. Lula Lola
    September 25, 2010 | 5:12 am

    Great tips! I always wonder when they need to see a doctor. Sometimes, it's hard to make the call.
    Since school started in August, we've already had a round of colds, and we adults have had stomach viruses(but I swear the boys brought it home). If we can dodge the flu, I won't complain!

  58. Lula Lola
    September 25, 2010 | 5:12 am

    Great tips! I always wonder when they need to see a doctor. Sometimes, it's hard to make the call.
    Since school started in August, we've already had a round of colds, and we adults have had stomach viruses(but I swear the boys brought it home). If we can dodge the flu, I won't complain!

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