The holidays are drawing to a close! For parents the start of the school term is often welcomed. But, kids can bring more than just their new textbooks home with them!

Back to school also means a return of common illnesses that are spread easily throughout classrooms. Let’s explore 5 common illnesses that are easily spread and can affect Aussie school kids.

1. The common cold

Children are particularly susceptible to the common cold and can catch it between 8 to 10 times per year. Common symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose

As the cold is a virus antibiotics are not necessary to cure it. Bed rest, plenty of fluids and a nutritious diet are the best way to get over a cold. It is highly contagious so to avoid spreading the illness to their classmates the following steps should be taken:

  1. Keep kids home from school while they are infectious.
  2. Teach your kids to cough and sneeze into a tissue or their elbow.
  3. Encourage proper handwashing techniques.

2. Head lice

Just the thought of them can make us itch all over! Unfortunately, they’re very common among kids and often brought home from school.

These little parasites live on the hair shaft and draw blood from the scalp resulting in uncomfortable itching. Although they can’t fly or jump they can move from one head to another in 30 seconds! What’s more, they can live in your child’s hair for up to three months before they become obvious.

Itching behind the ears is often a sign that head lice may be present. Regular hair checks are recommended, particularly for primary school kids. Thankfully, they can be taken care of with chemical treatments sold in supermarkets and pharmacies.

3. Conjunctivitis

Bacterial or viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and spread easily throughout a classroom. It results when bacteria or viruses infect the eye causing swelling of the membrane.

Bacterial conjunctivitis may require antibiotic drops to help clear the infection. Both infections are easily spread through contact such as sharing pillows or glasses.

To avoid spreading conjunctivitis:

  • Avoid touching the eye with dirty hands.
  • Wash hands with antibacterial soap.
  • Wash bedlinen in hot water and detergent.
  • Stay out of swimming pools until the infection passes.

4. Chickenpox

Another illness which can send shivers and itches across your body just thinking about it. Chickenpox is highly contagious and causes a rash across the body and often flu like symptoms.

Children with chickenpox should be kept home from school until the last blister dries. The time from infection to appearance of the rash is generally 14 to 16 days. Infected persons are contagious form 1 to 2 (sometimes 5) days before the rash appears and remain contagious until the blisters scab. Treatment of chickenpox generally includes skin creams and oatmeal baths to relieve itching, and pain relief such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.

5. Norovirus gastroenteritis

Also known as a ‘tummy bug’, norovirus gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection caused by a virus, it can cause diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. While there are many times of viruses that cause gastro, norovirus is the most common.

It is contagious and generally spread from one infected person to another, spreading quickly through a classroom. It can spread by:

  • Eating contaminated food or drinks.
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated and then putting hands in the mouth.
  • Direct contact with an infected person.

Symptoms generally begin within 24 – 48 hours of exposure to infection and can be spread to others for up to two days after vomiting or diarrhoea stops.