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Top illnesses most likely to make school-age kids sick

Expert shares how to avoid 'what's going around' at school

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(iStock)

Our weekly "What's Going Around" report usually focuses on the illnesses that are currently making people sick. 

But each September we ask local experts to share the illnesses parents can expect to see in school-age kids in the weeks to come.

We sat down with Romika Glenn, a nurse practitioner at the CVS MinuteClinic in Wyandotte, to discuss the trends she sees in the first weeks of school. 

"The first thing we see are upper respiratory conditions, strep throat, as well as conjunctivitis, which is also known as pink eye," said Glenn.

Glenn says those "big three" tend to hit not long after school starts.

"Upper respiratory infections usually consist of sinus infections, as well as the common cold.  They both present as a stuffy, running nose," said Glenn.

Viral infections usually get better on their own within two weeks, but seek help if your child spikes a fever, their symptoms seem to be getting worse or they suffer from an underlying health issue.

Strep throat

Strep throat is another common back-to-school concern.

"It's the worst sore throat you can imagine, on top of that you have high fever," said Glenn.   "I have heard patients describe it as like swallowing glass."

Strep throat can be treated with antibiotics, so get a strep test if you suspect your child has it.

Pink eye

Pink eye is another major problem in this age group.

"We typically see three forms of pink eye," said Glenn.  "Caused by allergens, viruses, as well as bacterial."

The viral and bacterial forms can be contagious.

"If you have red, runny eyes, you definitely want to get evaluated, so you can know the difference," said Glenn.

Beyond the "big three," asthma flare-ups are also common in the first weeks of school, made worse by upper respiratory infections or allergies to dust and ragweed.

In the younger sibling set, watch out for hand, foot, and mouth disease.

"Hand, foot, and mouth disease we typically see in daycare and preschoolers.  That is a viral infection," said Glenn.

Glenn also sees cases of head lice, spread by sharing things like hats, brushes, barrettes and hair products.

The best way to protect your kids from the most common illnesses?

"Handwashing," said Glenn.  "That is really important and coughing and sneezing etiquette.  Do so in your elbow, your sleeve or tissue."

It's also important to teach your children not to share -- at least when it comes to food, beverages, lip balms, makeup, hats and other items that can spread germs.

Glenn also says, with flu season approaching, it's time to get a flu shot for everyone in your family.  They're already available at CVS.

"This is just an exciting time for our students to go back to school, we want to keep our students healthy, so definitely get vaccinated and if you have any concerns about their health, bring them to get checked out and evaluated by a health care professional."