Going back to school can tax your kid’s health. Catching up with old friends and making new ones can be an exciting time, but close contact with other kids also increases the chance that they’ll become sick or have an accident that results in an injury.
In the first few months of a new school year, there are lots of germs going around. They’re on desks, keyboards, in the classroom, and on the playground—where accidents also happen. The best way to minimize these germs is to teach your child to wash their hands well—and often. If your child does come down with a bug, keep him or her home from school until they’re fever-free for 24 hours without medicine.
Common Kids’ Health Back-To-School Illnesses and Injuries
- “Backpack-itis”: Overstuffed backpacks can cause head, neck and shoulder pain, and could lead to bad posture. Use your bathroom scale to figure out what your kid weighs with and without her or his backpack. Make sure the full backpack doesn’t weigh more than 10% of his or her weight. Also, make sure your child wears both straps. A lightweight pack with wide straps and a padded back is a good choice.
- Colds and flu: Colds are very contagious. If your child doesn’t have a fever, it’s probably okay to go to school. It’s important not to spread germs — so teach your kid to cough or sneeze into a tissue—or an elbow—and to wash her or his hands. When it comes to flu, prevention is important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu shot for everyone aged six months and older.
- Impetigo: This skin infection is very contagious. Symptoms include sores and blisters on the face, neck, and hands. Keep any cuts clean and teach your child, not to scratch rashes and bug bites. Thorough handwashing helps prevent the spread of impetigo and strep throat, which is related.
- Lice: These tiny bugs live on the scalp, feed on blood and cause itching. Kids usually get lice by being in close contact with someone who has them. To keep your family lice-free, teach your child to avoid head-to-head contact and not to share hats, helmets, hair accessories, towels, or other personal things. Make sure students don’t share cubbies or lockers.
- Pinkeye: This eye infection, also called conjunctivitis, is easily spread from one kid to the next in school. Signs include bloodshot eyes, itchy and burning eyes, and a yellow or green eye discharge from the eyes. If your child has pinkeye, a prescription for antibiotic eye drops is needed to treat it. Like other contagious diseases, the best prevention is good handwashing.
- Playground injuries: Common injuries include fractures, cuts, bruises, and sprains. But dislocations, broken bones and concussions can also happen. Most injuries happen on playground bars or climbers. Make sure the playground is supervised and that your child follows the rules.
- Strep throat: Strep throat can spread through the student body pretty fast. In addition to a sore throat, symptoms may include a runny nose, high fever, and headache. If untreated, strep throat could lead to rheumatic fever. It’s important to get a strep test and treat this disease with antibiotics. Teach your child to steer clear of anyone with a sore throat and to wash hands often. Your child should also know not to share drinks, spoons, forks, knives or toothbrushes.
- Stomach flu: This bug isn’t really the flu—but it is a virus and it’s highly contagious. It causes stomachaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. Stomach bugs can lead to dehydration. Teach your child to always wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating. Your child should not share drinks, forks, knives, spoons, or toothbrushes.
Know Where To Go for Kids’ Health Issues
Your pediatrician or family doctor knows your kid’s health the best, but if your doctor isn’t available and you need health care right away or outside of your doctor’s office hours, minute clinics, and urgent care centers are good choices. Minute Clinics can treat minor illnesses. Urgent care centers also treat minor illnesses and can perform X-rays and more advanced treatment for kids’ health issues that aren’t life-threatening.
Know where to go to get the right care at the right time. Your primary care doctor knows your child’s medical history best, but the Emory Healthcare Network includes more than 2,800 doctors and 300 locations, including 11 hospitals, as well as primary care offices, urgent cares, and MinuteClinics throughout metro Atlanta and across the region. Get the care you need wherever you need it. See our map to find the locations closest to you.
When To Go to the Emergency Room
Go to the ER for urgent conditions including:
- Blood in the mouth when coughing or vomiting
- Broken bones
- Chest or upper abdominal pain
- Confusion or other changes in mental status
- Difficulty breathing
- Fainting, dizziness, weakness, or trouble moving
- Head or neck injury
- Sudden changes in vision
- Sudden or severe pain
- Severe or persistent diarrhea or vomiting
- Suicidal or homicidal feelings
- Uncontrollable bleeding
If you take your child to the ER, have key information ready for the nurse or doctor. Keep track of when symptoms started, how they progressed, how long a fever or rash has lasted, how often your child has gone to the bathroom, any medications, who they’ve been in contact with, and any other health concerns. Bring water, snacks and a toy for your child.
Talk to Our Nurses
If you still aren’t sure if a trip to the ER is needed, call your family doctor or the Emory HealthConnection where registered nurses can help you find a location or specialist that’s right for you. Call 404-778-7777 from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST (M-F).