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Treating Common Bugs and Germs in Kids

by | September 1, 2022 | Health Tips

The first day of school is right around the corner, and kids from different homes will once again congregate indoors in classrooms. This can be concerning for patents because of how quickly germs can spread between children. Common colds are very infectious because the viruses that cause them are respiratory, meaning they’re spread through the air and can infect anyone close by.  In this article, we will share how you can protect your children from common bugs, like those that cause the common cold, and also give signs of when you should contact a health professional for help. 

The Common Cold/ Flu

The common cold is caused by viruses, typically rhinovirus. The flu is caused by the influenza virus. Both are transmitted via exhaled droplets in the air. Though colds and flu are most prevalent in autumn and winter, people can be infected any time of the year. 

Signs & Symptoms of Cold and Flu: 

  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Fever, body aches, and chills are specifically associated with the flu, in addition to the symptoms above.

Treatment

A cold can not be cured because it is caused by a virus. Unfortunately, with viral infections, you can only control the extent of the symptoms and try to help the body recover smoothly.  The recovery period is typically about one week. If the patient has a weakened immune system or asthma, recovery may take longer. Rest, lots of fluids and anti-inflammatory medications can help significantly with the recovery period.

When To Seek Help

If the symptoms last for more than 10 days, this is a sign that you or your child should see a physician. Professional care is especially needed if the symptoms have worsened over the normal period of 7-10 days. 

Protect Your Child and Yourself

You can reduce your risk of being infected with either a cold or influenza by:

  • Getting yourself and your family vaccinated against influenza every fall
  • Practicing social distancing when you or those around you are experiencing symptoms or have been infected
  • Washing your hands often
  • Avoiding touching your mouth, eyes, and nose unless you have just washed your hands. It is also important to wash your hands after eating, blowing your nose, or touching your mouth – especially if you are sick.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease is another viral infection caused by an Enterovirus. It is typically spread through direct contact with saliva, mucus or feces. However, it can also be spread through skin-to-skin contact as well as respiratory droplets. This virus is highly contagious and is usually mostly seen amongst 4-5 year old (preschool and kindergarten-aged) children, but parents can also become infected.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Fever 
  • Mouth sores
  • Skin rash 
  • Other minor symptoms include a sore throat, feeling unwell, and irritability

Treatment

Like the cold and flu, HFMD can not be cured because it is caused by a virus. However, the extent of symptoms can be controlled with anti-inflammatory medication, such as Tylenol, ro reduce fever and pain, along with working to prevent dehydration. This may be tough because of the painful mouth sores and sore throat but try to keep your child hydrated with lots of fluids. Aspirin should not be given to children for pain relief.  

When To Seek Help

If the symptoms last with no improvement for more than 10 days, you should consult with a healthcare provider. If your child is less than 12 months old and is experiencing symptoms, a clinician should be consulted immediately. 

Protect Your Child and Yourself

Infection can be prevented through consistent hand washing. This is especially important after changing diapers, using the bathroom, caring for someone who is sick, or after coughing/sneezing. 

Be sure to help your children wash their hands to ensure that the hands are being sanitized for at least 20 seconds. This ensures thorough cleaning of any germs that may be residing on their hands from surfaces or contact with other children. 

Strep Throat

Unlike the common cold and influenza, strep throat is caused by bacteria, not a virus. The bacteria (called group A streptococcus) live in nasal passages and the throat making it highly contagious. Group A Strep is spread through respiratory droplets emitted via coughs or sneezes. Though being exposed to respiratory droplets is the most common means of infection, you can also become infected by touching the droplets that land on surfaces and then touching your nose or mouth. Infection can also occur by coming in contact with fluids of the sores that were caused by Group A Strep. 

Signs & Symptoms

  • Sore Throat: Typically the very first symptom. More specifically described as pain with swallowing. 
  • Red and swollen tonsils: The tonsils would also have white pustules signifying an infection. 
  • Red tiny spots of irritation on the roof of the mouth. 
  • Swollen lymph nodes immediately underneath the jawline: This is your body’s way of signaling that it is fighting off an infection.  

Treatment

Since strep throat is caused by bacteria, antibiotics can be helpful in eliminating the infection from your body. Antibiotics are the quickest and most effective form of treatment and should be used if you or your child are symptomatic. 

Antibiotics typically:

  •  Decrease the amount of time that you are sick
  •  Significantly decrease your symptoms 
  •  Prevent the spread of the infection to other people

It is important to be aware that an antibiotic will not be effective if your sore throat is caused by a virus. If your antibiotic is not working then consult with your doctor for further evaluation, you may not have strep throat in this case. 

When To Seek Help

It is important to know for certain that you have strep throat. If painful swallowing has lasted more than five days, a simple test done by the healthcare provider will give you clarity on your or your child’s diagnosis.  The clinician will also be able to prescribe you the proper antibiotics depending on the results of your rapid test. 

Protect Your Child and Yourself

Strep Throat is not an infection that you can build an immunity to. Therefore there is no vaccine to help protect you or your child from recurrence. However, there are a few things you can do to protect you and your child from contracting the infection. 

  1. Decrease your interaction with those who have recently been infected. The infected person should remain in isolation until their fever has resolved or the antibiotic has been taken for at least 24 hours. This decreases the potential for the spread of infection. 
  2. Wash your hands often and for approximately 20 seconds each time. This will get rid of any bacteria that may be present on your hands. 
  3. Always cover your mouth and nose with either your elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

Head Lice

Lice are parasitic insects that attach themselves to human hair and ultimately feed on human blood. The most prevalent kind of lice is head lice. Lice can feed on human blood up to 4-5 times a day. 

Though many have associated having head lice with poor hygiene, this is not the case. Having lice is not a reflection of a person’s hygiene. Head lice are often shared via close contact. In the case of children, this can happen through hugging, close proximity while sharing toys, head-to-head contact while looking at something together, or even sharing clothing such as hats, hair ties or scarves. 

Signs & Symptoms

  • Itching of the scalp
  • Small sores on the head due to excessive scratching
  • Difficulty sleeping because of scalp irritation

Prevention

Lice tend to thrive by living on unwashed clothing. Therefore, the key to prevention is washing clothes between uses and not sharing clothes (including hats and scarves) with other children.

Treatment

  1. Shampoo the hair with a specific shampoo that contains ingredients that are lethal to lice. The keyword to look for is ‘pediculicide’. Keep in mind that after applying this shampoo, the hair should not be washed for up to two days. This allows that treatment to have its full effect. 
  2. Remove any remaining eggs that may have been attached to the hair shafts. This is typically done via a fine-toothed comb. 
  3. Vacuum and thoroughly clean any surface in your home where the lice could have landed throughout the day. Wash all bedsheets and pillowcases and any soft toys your child sleeps with or is otherwise in close contact with. Some people even shampoo their carpets. 
  4. After these prior three steps, your child should be lice-free again in less than five days. 

Conclusion

Remember, with this upcoming school year, the best way to keep your kids safe and healthy is through preventive measures. This includes washing hands, maintaining distance from those who are sick, and practicing good personal hygiene. Protect yourselves and others by making sure your child is safe and healthy. We hope this was informative and helpful and wish your families a safe start to the school year!