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How to Deal With Back-To-School Illnesses

By Terez Malka, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
August 29, 2022

It’s September, meaning millions of students around the U.S. are going, or have already gone, back to school.

Returning to the classroom means lots of wonderful things—reconnecting with friends, meeting new teachers, kicking off the sports seasons. But it also means common illnesses that spread quickly—like lice, pink eye, coughs and sniffles—tend to pick back up.

If your kid gets sick, or infects you or someone at home, don’t fret! Clinicians are available 24/7 on the K Health platform to prescribe medication, suggest at-home treatments, or answer any questions about symptoms.

Read on for info on some of the most common school-related conditions, and how we may be able to help.

Hand, Food, and Mouth Disease

Key takeaway: If you think your kid has it, don’t kiss them for a few days.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease, caused by the coxsackievirus, is a highly contagious infection that can cause mild fever, mouth sores, and itchy rashes on the hands and feet. It spreads through air droplets and contaminated surfaces, and is most commonly contracted by young children and babies who are in close contact.

Because it’s a viral infection, symptoms can be managed with OTC medications but it can’t be cured. It usually resolves on its own within seven to ten days.

Contrary to popular belief, HFMD cannot be contracted from pets or animals—foot-and-mouth disease and hoof-and-mouth disease are different illnesses. Learn how to treat symptoms

Conjunctivitis or Pink Eye

Key takeaway: If it’s spreading in your house, chat with a doctor on K Health…and don’t touch your eyes.

Conjunctivitis is very common, affecting six million people in the U.S. every year. There are many ways people can develop it, but most conjunctivitis is caused by viruses and will get better all on its own. It spreads easily, making it a common condition amongst kids.

If you or anyone in your family develops red, itchy, or gunky eyes (among other symptoms), clinicians practicing on K Health can suggest a home remedy or prescribe medications remotely. Learn more about symptoms of pink eye

Cold and Flu

Key takeaway: It’s very likely you’ll catch a cold or flu. Cover your mouth when you sneeze and get your flu shot.

Back to school and change of seasons always mean fevers, sniffles, coughs, and sore throat—common symptoms of the cold and flu viruses.

Somewhere between 5% and 20% of Americans get the flu each year, and millions more come down with a cold. A normal, healthy child gets 10 or more viral illnesses per year, so it may seem like they are always sick, or have a new illness every month. While both are respiratory viruses with similar symptoms, the flu comes on strong, while colds tend to be more mild. The flu can also cause serious illness.

Viruses don’t have cures, but treatments exist to help manage symptoms. Think you’re coming down with a cold or flu? Spot the differences

Lice

Key takeaway: Here are 11.

Approximately 12 million people catch these small parasitic insects that cling to scalp hairs. They can be itchy, and spread very easily through head-to-head contact. Getting checked for lice is a common thing amongst school-aged children, and if your kid gets lice, it’s not uncommon for people at home to get it, too.

Luckily, there are ways to treat this at-home. Here are 11 ways to treat lice, and info on when you should connect with a medical professional.

Stomach Bug

Key takeaway: Rest, hydrate, stick to a bland diet, and text us if you’re not getting better.

A stomach bug is awful. It can come out of no where and leave you hugging your pillow or a toilet bowl for hours.

Luckily it usually goes away within a few days. Regardless, knowing ways to manage symptoms is key to getting through it—here are some tips for speeding up your recovery

Athlete’s Foot

Key takeaway: It’s highly contagious and won’t go away without treatment.

If you walk around barefoot, get sweaty feet, or play sports, you’re at risk for athlete’s foot.

While unsightly and uncomfortable, the rash, which is caused by a contagious fungal infection and most often appears in the gaps between toes, is usually easy to treat on your own. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for it to return, even after successful treatment.

Learn how to prevent and treat athlete’s foot

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Terez Malka, MD

Dr. Terez Malka is a board-certified pediatrician and emergency medicine physician.

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