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5 Back-to-School Health Concerns

​Are you feeling a bit wistful and melancholy as school resumes? Or perhaps you're breathing a deep sigh of relief that the house is quieting down and a semblance of order is returning to your days.

Whether you're bittersweet or blissful now that the kids are back in class, you probably share a few typical concerns with every other parent. It can be tough to wave goodbye in the morning and spend your day wondering what health challenges the next eight hours may hold for your little ones. Let's look at five of the most common health concerns to help you prepare.


Does your child have a food allergy? This potentially life-threatening condition affects 1 in every 13 American children under 18 years of age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that food allergies increased among children by approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011.

If your child has a known allergy to foods such as tree nuts, peanuts, or milk, beestings, or latex — it's important that you alert the school nurses, teachers, and coaches to their condition. Also, make sure the school is stocked with an EpiPen. If your child has an allergic reaction it could save their life.

Common Communicable Diseases

Are your child's state-required immunizations current? Before your child heads back to class make sure they have gotten all vaccines recommended — including the flu vaccine.

The CDC reports that although "vaccine-preventable diseases have become very rare thanks to vaccines . . . outbreaks still happen." There were a record number of measles cases in 2014, and "from January 1 to June 13, 2016, almost 6,000 cases of whooping cough have been reported to CDC by 50 states and Puerto Rico."

Schools and daycare centers are the perfect breeding grounds for cold and flu viruses. A single sneeze can spray thousands of germs into the air at 200 miles per hour and travel three feet.

Teach your child to sneeze and cough into a tissue or the inside of their elbow to contain infectious droplets.

Teach your child to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before eating and after using the restroom and playing outside.

Keep your child home from school if he has a temperature higher than 100 degrees, body aches, and coughing or vomiting. Don't let him return until he's symptom-free for 24 hours.

If a sibling is sick, alert the school nurse.

In addition, make sure your child's school is taking steps to keep kids healthy. Ask how drinking fountains are cleaned and sanitized, and if there is a plan in place in case of a flu outbreak.


Head lice infestations are most common among preschool and elementary school-age children from ages 3 to 11 years. The CDC estimates the number of annual cases in the U.S. to number from 6 million to 12 million, and costs associated with head lice infestations and treatment are estimated at one billion dollars a year.

Lice transmission occurs primarily through head-to-head contact and infrequently through indirect contact with shared personal belongings such as combs, brushes, clothing, hats, scarves, and towels.

You can take steps to keep your child lice free by not allowing them to share hats, combs, or other personal items. Also, hang their coats and other clothing away from the personal items of others. Even when taking precautions it is important to check your child for lice at least once a week.

Although the head lice do not cause disease, the "secondary bacterial infection of the skin resulting from contaminated scratching and related lesions can occur." Brush up on your lice eradication knowledge, and consult with your healthcare provider if your child comes home with nits.


Ringworm, or tinea, is a common skin infection, especially among children. This red, circular rash with a raised, scaly border is caused by the multiplication of a fungus or yeast and is easily spread from one child to another. Transmission occurs when you touch someone who is infected; contact a contaminated surface such as a shower or pool; or during the sharing of combs, clothing, and sporting equipment. Infected pets can also be sources of infection.

Although school board policies vary throughout the country, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that students diagnosed with ringworm not be banned from school, but should receive treatment for the condition and avoid contact that could spread the infection. Because ringworm can be spread through gym mats, exercise equipment, helmets, and towels - most school sports activities are off-limits to students diagnosed with ringworm.

Ringworm's fungal infection is treated with topical and orally administered medication for four to six weeks. Scalp infections are usually treated with a special prescription shampoo.

Your Child's Personal Medical Needs

Does your child have a chronic health condition that requires daily medication such as diabetes or asthma? Meet with the school nurse before school starts to implement a plan and ensure she or he is prepared to administer your child's meds.

Are all the appropriate forms on file with the school that provide all of your current emergency contact numbers and your child's pertinent health information?

Does your child have any physical restrictions that might limit activity or participation in group outings or sports? Children with ADHD may benefit from special attention from teachers such as a seat in the front of the class and permission to complete long assignments in smaller chunks.

Chances are good that your children will sail through another school year smoothly and in great health. But in the event that you encounter a hiccup or two, a bit of advanced planning can take the stress factor down for everyone.