Common Student Health Conditions
Asthma affects nearly five million children in the United States and is the most common serious chronic disease of childhood. Symptoms of asthma include coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing. Asthma may be triggered by allergens such as dust mites and animal dander. Certain environmental conditions can also trigger an asthma attack, such as cold and dry air, wind, pollution, wood smoke, tobacco smoke, or high airborne pollen.
Proper control and management of asthma means no coughing; no difficulty breathing, wheezing or chest-tightness; being able to participate in normal activities including playing, sports and exercise; no emergency room visits; and no missed work for the parent or caregiver! This may be accomplished by reducing environmental triggers, promoting a healthy lifestyle, including proper rest, diet, exercise, and medication use. Devices and medications that may be prescribed include a peak flow meter to measure expired air volume, metered dose inhalers, spacers that attach to inhalers, nebulizers, dry powder inhalers, or oral medications.
If your child is diagnosed with asthma, please contact the school nurse so that a care plan might be written for your child and shared with the teacher and office staff. This team effort will help create a safe and healthy environment for your child.
For more information, you may want to visit the following sites: Asthma & Allergy Foundation or American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
Chickenpox (varicella) is an acute viral illness of sudden onset characterized by: fever, fatigue, and/or a rash.
The skin changes begin as small dew-drop-like blisters which in 3 or 4 days leave a scab. These lesions tend to be more abundant on the trunk than on exposed parts of the body and may appear on areas such as the mucous membranes of the mouth and the scalp. Transmission of this highly contagious disease is spread via person-to-person; indirectly through contaminated articles; and through the air. Respiratory tract secretions and fluid from the visicles (blisters) both carry the virus. A person is typically contagious from 1-2 days before the rash appears to when all pox have scabbed. The period from exposure until symptoms appears is usually 14-16 days, but can vary between 10 to 21 days. Children should remain out of school until after all the lesions have crusted and there are no “weeping” blisters (about 5 to 7 days from onset of rash).
For more information regarding Chickenpox, you may want to visit the Public Health – Seattle & King County web site by clicking here.
Note: Children with Chickenpox should not take aspirin, since there appears to be a statistical association with Reye’s Syndrome and aspirin.
Fifth’s Disease is a mild contagious virus that may cause complications in pregnant women. Symptoms of this illness can vary, but may include fever, tiredness, and a red rash to the cheeks that may be associated with a lace-like rash on the trunk and extremities. The rash on the face has a “slapped cheek” appearance. In adults the rash is frequently absent, and only symptoms may be joint pain lasting days to months. About fifty percent of adults in the U.S. have immunity from past infection. The best way to prevent transmission of this virus is through good hand-washing, and to avoid sharing eating utensils. Please contact your health care professional for guidance if your child develops these symptoms, or if you are pregnant and exposed to the virus.
The hepatitis A virus is passed through fecal matter. It infects another person when the fecal virus gets on objects or food that go in another person’s mouth. Thorough handwashing after toileting and before handling food is the most important factor in the prevention of this disease. Therefore, you cannot get hepatitis simply by being in the same room with someone who has hepatitis. It is important to note that infection with this virus in children will probably by mild and perhaps show no symptoms at all, yet the child may still be contagious. The symptoms of hepatitis are nausea, vomiting, fever, cramps, fatigue, dark urine, light-colored stool, and yellow skin and eyes. If you suspect that your child or another family member has these symptoms, please contact your physician and notify your Health Services. You may call Public Health – Seattle & King County at (206) 587-2774 for more information. There are also informational pamphlets available in the school office.
MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is essentially a staph infection that is resistant to most antibiotics.
The MRSA bacterium lives on the skin or nasal passage of perhaps 40 percent of people, medical experts tell us. If it gets inside your body through an open cut or person-to-person contact, it can cause an infection. It’s not transmitted through the air, nor is it dangerous for a student with a MRSA infection to be in school as long as the wound is properly treated and covered with appropriate bandaging, experts say.
While this is a very real health concern, it is important to know that MRSA is a treatable infection, although not all antibiotics are effective against it. It’s important to check with your health care provider if you or your child receives a skin or soft tissue wound that develops redness, warmth, swelling, tenderness of the skin, and boils or blisters. A staph infection may look like a spider bite, as well. You may call the school nurse to help you determine if he or she should see a doctor, or for follow-up care if the student is diagnosed with a staph infection.
We also want to make sure that you are aware of some great resources on the state Department of Health Website at http://www.doh.wa.gov/Topics/Antibiotics/MRSA.htm. This includes a Question and Answer section about MRSA in schools. There is also some general information in English and Spanish about what MRSA is, how it is spread, and steps people can take to prevent an infection. Here are some important measures to take.
Tips for Preventing MRSA Infection
- Practice good hygiene—wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; shower immediately after exercising.
- Avoid sharing items such as towels, sheets, clothing, razors, and athletic equipment. Staph, including the antibiotic-resistant MRSA strain, spreads on contaminated objects as well as through direct contact.
- Wash athletic gear and towels properly after each use. For clothing, use a washer and laundry detergent, and a dryer to dry clothes completely. Use detergent-based cleaners or U.S. Environmental Protection Agency registered disinfectants to remove MRSA from surfaces. Avoid whirlpools or common tubs if you have an open wound, scrape, or scratch.
- Cover scrapes or cuts with clean, dry bandages until healed.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces, such as athletic equipment, that come into direct contact with peoples’ skin.
Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is once again present in the King County area. It is a respiratory illness caused by a bacteria. The disease gets its name from severe coughing fits that end in deep intakes of breath that sound like whoops. Children are immunized against pertussis starting at 2 months of age. Young babies or partially immunized infants are the ones most at risk of serious illness from pertussis. Children and adults who get the illness can have an irritating cough that can last for one to two months or more. The illness is treated with specific antibiotics to prevent transmission to others, but the cough can persist even after treatment.
The pertussis vaccination is not given to anyone over 7 years of age, and immunity to pertussis wanes over time because the vaccine lasts only about 10 years. For this reason, older children and adults can acquire the illness and pass it on to young babies who can become seriously ill with whooping cough. It is wise to have persons with runny nose and coughs to avoid contact with new babies whenever possible. Children or adults should check with their health care provider if they develop a persistent cough, particularly one associated with coughing fits that result in production of thick mucus, gasping for breath or vomiting. Please notify your child’s school if they are diagnosed with pertussis. Typically, after 5 days of a specific antibiotic they are non-contagious and can return to school. Feel free to talk with your child’s school nurse if you have further questions.
Symptoms of scabies include itching and rashes that occur primarily in the creases of the body or in places that have clothing constriction such as in the area of the waistbands. If any infestation occurs, please do the following: notify your physician, notify the school, and treat your child and affected family members with a medicated cream. The child’s clothes and bed linen should be washed and ironed or dried in the dryer on a hot setting. Students cannot be readmitted to school until treatment has occurred. Items that cannot be washed or cleaned need to be sealed in a plastic bag for two weeks. Furniture and carpets need to be thoroughly vacuumed. Scabies, like lice affects people in all walks of life and should cause NO social stigma. Lack of information about scabies can lead to misunderstanding and fearful reaction. Public Health – Seattle & King County, (253) 838-4557, can give you additional information regarding this condition.
Signs and symptoms of strep throat include sore throat, fever, large inflamed tonsils with or without white streaks, and tender nodes in the neck. Additional symptoms may include headache, nausea, or vomiting. Cough, hoarseness, loss of voice, and stuffy nose are uncharacteristic of streptococcal infection.
Strep throat may have complications if left untreated. Scarlet fever is a strep throat infection with a rash that usually first appears on the neck and then spreads. The rash resembles sunburn with goose bumps. If you suspect your child has strep throat, call your Health Care Provider to determine whether a throat culture is needed. Whenever your provider prescribes an antibiotic for your child, it is important to take the entire prescription, even if your child is feeling better.
Please contact the school and day care provider if your child has a positive throat culture for strep. Children should not return to school until they have been on antibiotics for 24 hours and temperature has returned to normal.