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Parenting & Education in Ireland

How to squash those school bugs!



The return to school alongside the change in weather naturally exposes our children to a range of ailments and infections both inside and outside the school gates. While it is impossible to avoid this exposure, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of your child succumbing to the latest bug doing the rounds. Read our tips on how to squash those bugs and advice from HSE.ie on exclusion from School!

Hygiene

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.


Healthy Diet

A healthy diet can make all the difference in boosting your child’s immune system. It is important therefore to ensure that they have a balanced and varied lunchbox .Sugary treats should only be rarely and sparingly included in lunch boxes because all they provide is empty calories. When it comes to choice of drink, from a dental health point of view the best options are water or milk.


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

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.

Precautions: Regular hand washing will prevent person to person transmission.

Exclusion: Exclusion is not generally indicated but in circumstances where spread within the preschool or classroom is evident, it may be necessary to recommend exclusion of affected children until they recover.



Impetigo

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.

Precautions: People with impetigo must not handle food as the infective organism may also cause food poisoning. If there is an outbreak, stop the use of sand, water, play dough and cooking activities and wash all “dressing up” clothes.

Exclusion:Until lesions are crusted and healed, or 24 hours after commencing antibiotics.



Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

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.

Precautions: Frequent handwashing especially after contact with secretions from the nose or throat or contact with faeces reduces the risk of transmission.

Exclusion: While the child is unwell he/she should be kept away from school/nursery. If evidence exists of transmission within the day centre exclusion of children until the spots have gone from their hands may be necessary.



Head Lice

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.

Precautions: Regular combing of the hair with a fine-toothed comb should be encouraged at all times. Treatment is only required if live lice are seen in the hair (not nits).

Exclusion: is unnecessary..



Chickenpox

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.

Precautions: Individuals with impaired immunity who have not had the disease and are in contact with a case should seek medical advice promptly.

Exclusion: Those with chickenpox should be excluded from school/nursery until scabs are dry; this is usually 5-7 days after the appearance of the rash.



Influenza

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.

Precautions: The best way to prevent flu is by getting the flu vaccine each year. Children do not need to be vaccinated unless they belong to a risk group for influenza.

Exclusion: Children with suspected or confirmed influenza should remain at home for 7 days from when their symptoms began. In general persons with flu are infectious for 3-5 days after symptoms begin but this may be up to a week or more in children. Children should not re-attend their childcare facility until they are feeling better and their temperature has returned to normal.



Scarlet Fever

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.

Exclusion: Once a patient has been on antibiotic treatment for 24 hours they can return to school/nursery provided they feel well enough.



Stomach Bug or Gastroenteritis

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.

Precautions: Preventive measures include care in the way food is stored, prepared, cooked, and by attention to basic hygiene in food handlers, affected people and those in contact with them.

Exclusion: Children who have had campylobacteriosis should be excluded until 48 hours after their first formed stool.



Slapped Cheek

This viral infection usually occurs in outbreaks every few years and small outbreaks are common in schools/nurseries. It is a mild illness caused by a virus known as parvovirus B19. A red rash appears on the face giving a ‘slapped cheek’ appearance and may also involve the legs and trunk. Often the child may have a runny nose and cough. Spread is mainly through infected secretions by coughing and sneezing. There is no specific treatment. A few children, but most adults, have mild joint pains.

Precautions: Preventive measures include strict handwashing following contact with secretions.

Exclusion: An affected child need not be excluded because he/she is no longer infectious by the time the rash occurs.


For more information and advice, see hse.ie.

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