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Kids Urged to Take Steps to Avoid Spreading Illness at School

SUNDAY, Aug. 14 (HealthDay News) -- As the new school year approaches, pediatricians are reminding parents and kids that children with contagious infections, such as strep throat, should stay home from school and receive the appropriate treatment.

According to the experts from the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., strep throat is just one of several common childhood illnesses that could spread easily if parents and children do not take the proper precautions.

"When kids come into contact with germs, they can unknowingly become infected simply by touching their eyes, nose or mouth," Dr. Kate Cronan, medical editor at Nemours' and a pediatrician at DuPont, said in a Nemours news release. "And once they're infected by contagious germs, it's usually just a matter of time before other family members come down with the same illness."

During the school year, the experts advised, parents and students should remain particularly mindful of these five common childhood infections:

  • Pinkeye (conjunctivitis). This very contagious infection or inflammation of the lining of the eyelids can result in red, crusty and itchy eyes. The condition, most often caused by viruses or bacteria, can be prevented by washing hands thoroughly and often with soap and warm water. Children should also avoid touching their eyes as well as sharing eye drops, makeup, pillowcases, washcloths and towels.
  • Strep throat. This bacterial infection causes swelling and extreme soreness in the back of the throat. The contagious illness, which typically affects school-age kids and teens, spreads through close contact and unwashed hands, as well as sneezing or coughing. The infection can be prevented by not sharing utensils, food, drinks, napkins or towels with a child who is already sick. Children should also be taught to sneeze or cough into their shirtsleeve, not their hands.
  • Head lice. Lice, parasitic insects that infest the head, eyebrows and eyelashes, are common among children (particularly girls with longer hair) between the ages of 3 and 12. Anyone can get lice and they are not associated with poor hygiene. Although they do not transmit disease, parents should discourage children from sharing combs, brushes, hats and helmets to prevent infestation.
  • Molluscum contagiosum. This very contagious viral skin rash is common among kids between the ages of 1 and 12. It is most often spread through direct contact with the skin, but kids can also get it by touching objects that have the virus on them. The best way to prevent this condition is by washing hands well with soap and water. Children should also avoid sharing personal items, such as towels and clothes.
  • Walking pneumonia. This illness is the leading type of pneumonia in school-age kids and teens. It can be spread through direct contact with an infected person or through coughs or sneezes containing bacteria. Although it can be treated effectively with antibiotics, children can prevent getting the illness by washing their hands well and often.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on childhood illnesses.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Nemours, news release, August 2011

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