Top 5 Classroom Illnesses

Does it seem like your child gets sick immediately upon returning to school? There are a number of common germs that circulate in places like daycares and schools. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that, on average, children come down with the common cold six to 12 times each year. Here are some other conditions that can be found creeping around the classroom:

Also called hand, foot, and mouth disease, the coxsackievirus generally doesn’t get a whole lot of attention. It occurs before cold and flu season hits and is characterized by flu-like symptoms such as headache, body aches, fever, decreased appetite and sore throat. It is sometimes accompanied by a rash inside the mouth, on the palms of the hands, or on the soles of the feet. Coxsackievirus most often occurs in children under age 10, but people of all ages are susceptible. The virus is contagious and is generally transmitted through saliva and feces. Treatment usually consists of simply letting the virus run its course, which takes from one to six days.

Strep throat
Strep throat is a bacterial infection caused by streptococcus pyogenes. It causes a severe sore throat accompanied by fever, nausea and vomiting. The bacteria is spread through saliva directly through eating or drinking after somebody or indirectly through contaminated droplets in the air. Antibiotics are necessary to treat strep throat quickly because of the possibility of more serious complications that could affect the brain and heart of infected children.

Also known as “the kissing disease,” mononucleosis is one of the most common viruses in the world. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 95 percent of adults will get mononucleosis at some point in their lifetime. Symptoms of mononucleosis include swollen glands, fever, fatigue and sore throat. The good news is that once a person comes down with this virus, they are usually immune to getting it again.

A major cause of severe gastrointestinal illness, a norovirus infection can occur anywhere that there is a crowd. Nursing homes, hospitals, cruise ships and, of course, schools are all common places for norovirus outbreaks. This illness causes severe vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Although the symptoms can be quite severe, most people recover without treatment within a day or two.

Otitis media
Otitis media can either be a bacterial or viral infection and occurs in the middle ear. Children are most often affected, in part, because the structures of their ears are not fully developed yet. Though painful because of inflammation and fluid build-up, ear infections often clear up on their own. However, severe cases require antibiotic treatment.

Good hygiene is the first line of defense when it comes to reducing the spread of germs in childcare settings. Frequent hand washing should be practiced by teachers and children alike, especially before and after eating and restroom breaks.


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Written by Melissa J. Murphy

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