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Back to School - Children’s Health

If you have children in school, then the beginning of September probably marks the last minute running around to get your children ready – uniforms, stationary supplies, books, gym kits, lunch boxes and more… Not to mention checking whether all of the homework has been done!

But the beginning of school and the countdown to the winter months also brings with them the inevitable bugs and illnesses that come with large groups of children spending time together in central heated rooms.

We look at how to be prepared for the term to come:

1)    Sore throat, blocked or runny nose and watery eyes all point to a cold being on the way. This is to be expected, most children get 6 colds a year and some as many as 10. There are up to 200 viruses that cause cold symptoms and they are spread by hand to hand contact or coughs and sneezes going in to the air. Luckily most kids will get over a cold in a week, generally a little extra rest is needed, and plenty of fluids and possibly some cough or cold remedies from the pharmacy that is age appropriate.

2)    Itchy, watery or crusty eyes may mean conjunctivitis (pink eye). This virus spreads like wildfire, so if one child has it in a class, it is not unusual for it to spread – the same goes for at home. Albeit uncomfortable it will generally clear itself in about 5 days. An antibiotic ointment can be purchased from the pharmacy to speed things along. If the symptoms are very severe or continue for 2 weeks you should consult a GP. Ensure your child has their own flannel and towels – wash these and their pillow cases frequently to avoid spreading amongst the household. Cotton wool soaked in cold tea, camomile or just water can sooth the eye and rid the area of any discharge.

3)    Sickness, diarrhoea or loss of appetite spells gastroenteritis. This can be bacterial or caused by a virus. Either way with plenty of rest and fluids they should feel back to normal in a couple of days. If they become drowsy, are vomiting for more than 6 hours, or are only passing small amounts of urine and are dehydrated you should seek medical help. When they begin eating again, try following the BRAT diet – Bananas, Rice, Apples and Toast – these foods are rich in fibre and are easy to digest.

4)    Itchy scalp, usually points to head lice, these are brown-grey wingless insects. The adult eggs are hard to see, but the empty eggs (nits) are usually visible. Head to head contact or sharing of brushes, hats etc. are to blame. There is no need to buy a specialist shampoo. Wash the child’s head as normal, and then apply conditioner, wet comb through using a specialist nit comb. Remove the lice by rinsing the comb after each section.

The best defence against many of these illnesses is a good diet and good personal hygiene which strengthens the immune system. Encourage them to eat – meat, fish, milk, fruit and vegetables, play outdoors to top up vitamin D levels, get a good night’s sleep, keep sugary foods to a minimum and wash those hands!

Wishing you all good health…

This article does not constitute medical advice, always consult your GP for any health matters or dial 999 in an emergency.