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Children's health: Top 5 Classroom Illnesses

Does it seem like your child gets sick right away upon returning to school? There are a number of common germs that regularly 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 6 to 12 times each year. Here are a few other conditions that can be found creeping around the classroom:

  • Coxsackievirus. Also called hand, foot, and mouth disease, the coxsackievirus is a common virus that 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 10 years of age, 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 bacteria known as Streptococcus pyogenes. It not only causes severe sore throat pain, but it can also fever, nausea, and vomiting. The bacteria is spread through saliva either by direct means such as eating or drinking after somebody, or by indirect means such as 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.

  • Mononucleosis. Also known as "the kissing disease," mononucleosis is one of the most common viruses in the world. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control reports that about 95% 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.

  • Norovirus. A major cause of severe gastrointestinal illness, norovirus infection can occur anywhere that there is a crowd. Nursing homes, hospitals, cruise ships, and of course, schools are all common places for outbreaks of norovirus. A norovirus infection causes severe vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. And even though 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 child care settings. Frequent hand-washing should be practiced by teachers and children alike, especially before and after eating and restroom breaks.