There are a variety of illnesses that our children pick up from other children at school. It’s hard to avoid – but that’s our mission here today. Provide contagious education for four common childhood contagious conditions.


In other articles we’ve addressed the need for vaccinations against deadly or debilitating diseases. The vaccine regimen typically includes hepatitis B1, A10; rotavirus (RV); diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis; haemophilus influenzae type b4 (Hib); pneumococcal conjugate; inactivated poliovirus (IPV); influenza (IIV; LAIV); measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); varicella (VAR) and meningococcal.

If you have school-aged children the words above may be familiar to you. Also familiar may be
words such as pink-eye, head lice, mono and strep throat. Here’s what you need to do about
the contagious conditions that children can bring home from school or daycare.


  • Head lice are highly contagious and have to nothing to do with mom and dad’s housekeeping habits. They have a lot to do with sharing caps, hats, brushes and sleepovers. If one person in a family gets head lice – it is not unusual for the entire family to become infected.
  • Symptoms: The eggs (nits) look like teeny tiny grains of rice that are attached to the hair shafts. The adults (lice) are only slightly larger and live off the human’s blood. A person could experience itchiness of the head, neck and ears; small, red bumps on the scalp, neck and shoulders; visible nits (eggs) in the hair.
  • Prevention: Avoid contact with infected persons. Don’t share brushes, combs or hats with anyone.
  • Treatment: There are nit combs with tiny teeth that can be used to remove the nits. This may need to be done several times per day. Head lice removing shampoo can work – although it is harsh. There are over the counter as well as prescription shampoos. Wash in hot water for 20 minutes all bedding, clothing, towels and anything that could have come in contact with the infected hair. Boil hairbrushes, combs, curlers, hair accessories. Many home remedies don’t work well. These include vinegar, mayonnaise, olive oil, tea tree oil and lotions that “suffocate” lice. Sadly, if one of your children comes home with head lice, you’ve got a lot of work to do.


    • Mono, the “kissing disease” is spread through saliva. Mono is caused by Epstein Barr virus (EBV) which is a member of the herpes virus family.
    • Symptoms: The symptoms of mono can include, sore throat, swollen glands (lymph nodes), headache, fever, tiredness and sometimes a rash. These symptoms can last for several weeks.
    • Prevention: Wash hands completely with soap and warm running water after any contact with saliva or items contaminated with saliva. Don’t share drinking cups, bottles, straws, eating utensils, tooth brushes, lip balm or water bottles. Avoid kissing an infected person.
    • Treatment: Rest, plenty of fluids, and medication to reduce fever. 


    • Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, can be caused by either a bacteria or a virus. It is highly contagious. It can be spread by touching something that an infected person touched, and then  touching your eyes.
    • Symptoms: Clear or yellow discharge that may make the eyelids stick together during sleep. Itchy eyes. Redness in the whites of the eyes. Swollen eyelids. Teary eyes.
    • Prevention: Wash hands after touching or wiping eyes. Children with pink eye should be kept home from school until 24 hours AFTER symptoms are gone. If infected (or any time, really) cough or sneeze into your elbow, or into a tissue which you dispose of promptly. Parents - disinfect contaminated surfaces. Don’t share towels, eye makeup, washcloths, binoculars, cameras or eyeglasses.
    • Treatment: You’ll need a doctor’s care for this one and either an antibiotic or eye drops or both.

    • The streptococcus bacteria cause strep throat. It is highly contagious and can be passed from saliva or nasal secretions that typically occur when coughing or sneezing. If left untreated, a strep infection could lead to serious heart problems. A quick test can diagnose strep, although the quick test can lead to false positive results, so a culture (the more accurate test) is also recommended.
    • Symptoms: A red, raw throat, spikes in fever and white spots on the tongue and tonsils.
    • Prevention: Many of the prevention methods are the same as those for mono. Handwashing for those who are not yet ill is recommended and covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing is recommended for the person who is ill.
    • Treatment: You’ll need to see a doctor for this one too. Antibiotics are used to treat the strep bacteria and over the counter medications can treat the symptoms. An infected person should avoid contact with others until at least 24 hours AFTER the first antibiotic treatment. Warning: People often feel better right away, and don’t complete the antibiotic treatment. This could leave the person as a carrier – without symptoms. It could also lead to a reoccurrence of the strep infection.
    These are four common contagious diseases or infections, although there are many more. For further reading, try the Quick Guide to Childhood Diseases.


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