How to Prevent Your Child From Getting Sick at School

School is soon-to-be back in session, and unfortunately, so are germs, viruses, and bacteria that cause kids’ illnesses. As a parent, you are naturally worried about your child getting sick this year or even bringing a virus home to the rest of your family. 

The best way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases is to be proactive. Make sure your kids fully understand what germs are, how to protect themselves and their classmates from getting sick, and the importance of good handwashing practices. 

Unsure how to explain germs to your kids? Check out our blog here for some helpful tips. For younger children, download our fun, interactive Visual Guide for Explaining Germs.

Additionally, make sure your children understand the importance of wearing a mask and when to wear it, especially since students over the age of 10 are mandated to wear masks this school year. Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order requires face masks for people over 10 years old while in public buildings, commercial spaces, or when in an outdoor setting that does not allow for 6 feet of distancing.

The CDC has provided detailed guidance on wearing cloth face coverings in school, including important dos and don’ts you can review with your child. You can find the guidance here.

While COVID-19 is a new virus that we are still actively learning about, there are several other illnesses that are highly common. As such, we know how to treat those viruses quickly to mitigate the spread and keep kids healthy both in school and in your home.

Here are five of the most common back-to-school kids’ illnesses you can expect in 2020 and how to treat them effectively:

1. A Cold

More than 200 different viruses can be classified as a cold, but the most common culprit is the rhinovirus. A cold, which typically lasts 4 to 10 days, is a viral illness that cannot be treated with antibiotics. Cold season is from September through March or April, but it’s still possible to catch a cold any time of year. 

Symptoms (Gradual Onset)

  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Watery or Crusty Eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Watery Mucus in the Nose
  • Fatigue
  • Fever (Sometimes)

Treatment

Unless your child has any underlying conditions or under the age of one, the cold usually runs its course and goes away without treatment. The most important thing is to drink fluids, get plenty of rest, and keep your child home to mitigate the spread of germs. For questions about specific treatment or if symptoms persist, call your child’s pediatrician.

2. Influenza (Flu)

Similar to a cold, influenza (the flu) is also caused by viruses and has many of the same symptoms. The most notable difference between a cold and the flu is how fast your child’s symptoms appear and how severe they are. Unlike a cold, which will creep up on your child after a few days, the flu takes hold quickly with an abrupt onset of symptoms.

For more information on nationwide flu activity, visit the CDC website.

Symptoms (Abrupt Onset)

  • Stuffy or Runny Nose
  • Achy Muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Sore Throat
  • Fever
  • Headache

Treatment

If you think your child has the flu, call your doctor immediately. Typically, the flu goes away on its own within a week, but in some cases, it can worsen and cause more serious complications. For children under the age of 2 or children who are immune-compromised that show flu-like symptoms, visit your local ER Near Me for immediate evaluation and treatment. Have your child avoid highly seasoned, fatty foods, and dairy products.

3. Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye)

Conjunctivitis, often called pinkeye, is a common eye infection in young kids, although teens and adults can catch the infection as well. Pinkeye is an inflammation of the whites of the eye (conjunctiva) and the inner eyelids. It’s a minor infection that typically looks worse than it is.

Symptoms

  • Red, Itchy Eyes
  • Blurred Vision
  • Sensitivity to Light
  • Eye Discharge

Treatment

While many cases of conjunctivitis go away on their own, it’s still important to call your child’s doctor as it may require treatment. For bacterial infections, your pediatrician may prescribe eye drops.

4. Epstein-Barr Virus or Mononucleosis (Mono)

Children may joke that this is the “kissing disease” but this illness is no joke, and it can spread in many other ways. Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is one of the most common human viruses in the world and can cause mononucleosis. It’s spread primarily through saliva by sharing food or drinks, sharing toothbrushes or utensils, and having contact with toys that children drooled on.

Symptoms

  • Fever
  • Sore Throat
  • Enlarged Lymph Nodes in Neck and Armpit
  • Facial Swelling
  • General Discomfort
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Muscle Aches or Stiffness
  • Enlarged Spleen
  • Rash

Treatment

Call your child’s pediatrician as soon as possible. Prioritize rest (sometimes for several weeks) and fluids. You can also consult your doctor about taking acetaminophen for pain relief.

5. Pharyngitis (Sore Throat)

Acute pharyngitis (also known as sore throat) is an infection of the pharynx or tonsils and is very common among children and teens during the winter and spring months. Pharyngitis is caused by a virus and it has a peak incidence in the early school years, although it’s uncommon in children under the age of three. Sore throat is usually transmitted through respiratory secretions, such as sneezing, coughing, or spitting while talking.

Symptoms

  • Sore Throat
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Joint and Muscle Aches
  • Skin Rash
  • Swollen Lymph Glands in the Neck
  • Red Pharynx
  • Enlarged Tonsils
  • Pain in Swallowing

Treatment

If caused by a virus, antibiotics will not be effective and will typically run its course within a week. If the sore throat is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics are required. You can also gargle warm salt water (half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water) to temporarily relieve sore throat symptoms.

Be Proactive to Beat Back-to-School Kids’ Illnesses

Every school is different, but there should be one thing all school districts have in common: your child’s health and safety is their top priority. Before sending your child back to school, check-in with the administrators and review their new policies for cleaning, disinfecting, and frequently sanitizing the school. 

You should also ensure your child understands the importance of good hygiene. Here are a few other tips we recommend before sending your child back to school:

  • If allowed, send your children to school with hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol).
  • Stress the importance of frequent handwashing, especially before eating.
  • If your child is sick or showing symptoms, keep them home from school to prevent the spread to others.
  • Remind your child not to touch their face unnecessarily.
  • Make sure your child understands that they should not share food or drinks with their classmates.

Remember that kids are still kids, so the best thing to do is generate awareness and be prepared while their immune systems develop. While it’s essential to proactively prevent the spread of disease, it’s also important to prepare for when your child does get sick. For a complete guide for a sick day including tips for relaxing and recovering, check out our blog here.

12 tips to keep your kids healthy at school