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Health Problems that Spread at School

Community Contributed

By Jon Mikami, RPh, and Kelly Go, RPh, Molokai Drugs, Inc.

Keiki should learn to share, right? However, when it comes to bugs and other contagious health problems in school, does your kid have to get everything that’s passed around?

Packed into a classroom and messing around on a playground or locker room, kids do tend to share lots of health problems in school. Here’s what you can do about it and when you should be concerned.

Do those little uku (head lice) top your list of concerns? Although these creepy insects might disgust you, it may help to know that they don’t cause diseases or other health problems, other than maybe a red, rash-like reaction. That doesn’t mean you want to ignore them since they spread really easily. Follow up with the doctor if your child complains of an itchy scalp or you catch sight of tiny white eggs firmly attached at hair roots. These are often confused with dandruff. Your child’s doctor may prescribe a treatment and other over-the-counter (OTC) shampoos or rinses. Follow directions closely and ask us if you have any questions.

Viral infections such as chicken pox are common, too. Many are contagious before skin lesions appear. Be sure to keep your child home until the sixth day after the rash appears unless all lesions are dry and crusted over. To prevent this infection, have your child vaccinated.

Fifth disease is another viral disease. It causes a lacy rash on arms and redness on cheeks that looks like the result of a well-placed slap. Unless your child feels too sick, there’s no need to stay home, because the disease only spreads before symptoms appear. However, notify anyone pregnant who may have been exposed — fifth disease can severely hurt a developing fetus.

Although there are many kinds of hepatitis, hepatitis A is the most common type in children. This virus is in blood and bowel movements, so hand washing is important to prevent its spread. A child with hepatitis A should stay home for a week after the onset of illness and until any jaundice (yellowed skin) disappears. Another disease spread through bodily fluids is HIV/AIDS. Although it can cause anxiety among parents, remember that casual physical contact – such as hugging, holding hands, or sharing a glass – does not transfer this virus.

Then, there’s the run-of-the mill colds and flu. Deciding whether or not to send your child to school can be a challenge. The general rule of thumb is if there’s a fever, keep your keiki at home until the fever’s gone for at least 24 hours. If there’s no fever, it’s likely it’s a cold and it’s OK to go to school. When in doubt, check with your child’s doctor. Flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older.

Stop by, and we can advise you on the best way to keep your keiki comfortable while the cold or flu runs its course. We can also give you a brief overview of prescription or OTC treatments for the more common childhood viral infections. If you have any questions, please call us at 808-553-5790 or visit us at our pharmacy from 8:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. We also have “special” hours on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. We are closed on Sundays.


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