Your Doctor

Back to School - Your Child's Health

Stationery supplies have been restocked and new school shoes have been purchased (those feet just won’t stop growing!) but back to school also means some predicaments that no family wants to think about such as classroom critters - head lice, worms and chickenpox - all of which have greeted several generations of children and their parents. However as preventative measures are confusing at best, here is our simple advice to stop you and child scratching your heads!

Head Lice: 

Head Lice (often called Nits) is a common condition amongst young children because it is passed on through head to head contact making it especially common in classrooms characterised by active learning methods and close proximity to peers. Tell-tale symptoms include having an itchy head or feeling movement within your hair. It is important to remember that head lice does not signify that your child has dirty hair - hair hygiene makes no difference at all! 

What precautions should I take? 

● Sharing is not caring! It is advised that head accessories such as hats or scarves should not be shared to prevent the head to head spread of lice. 

● Keep longer hair tied up to reduce the likelihood that lice will be transferred. 

If your child does have hair lice:-

● ‘Wet combing’ involves using special lice-killing shampoo and using a fine-toothed comb for several days (10 minutes daily for short hair and 20 minutes for longer hair to remove any lice or eggs present in the hair). 

● Natural Treatments: Rosemary, tea tree oil and eucalyptus are often credited for helping with lice removal although there is not sufficient evidence to prove significant benefits. 

Worms:

Worms (or Threadworms) refers to a condition whereby worms reproduce inside of the bowel after their eggs have been ingested. This condition is common among children under the age of 10, as habits such as thumb sucking help facilitate the ingestion of eggs. Symptoms include white threads evident in the faeces, irritation of the anus, bed wetting, disturbed sleep and stomach ache. 

What can I do? 

● Visit your GP to get a prescription to deal with threadworms.

● Discourage unhelpful habits like thumb sucking, putting fingers in mouths to reduce the likelihood of ingesting worms.

● Hygiene: Ensure that your family thoroughly wash their hands both before eating and after going to the toilet. 

● Cutting fingernails: Keep your child’s nails short and clean 

● Around the house: Worm eggs can survive for up to two weeks outside of the body so change the bedsheets immediately and regularly, and also hoover the house frequently.

Chickenpox:

Chickenpox (also known as Varicella) is a contagious illness common in children under the age of 10 and is characterised by an itchy rash usually on the facial, underarm, chest and leg areas. The rash spots will eventually turn to blisters and the scabs will fall off within one to two weeks. A temperature above 38c and an aching sensation in the first days of the illness is not uncommon. Most people become immune if they have had chicken pox, but adults are at greater risk of complication from getting chicken. The chickenpox vaccine is available with us for £89.99 per dose (2 doses required) And also protects against shingles in later life.

How should I respond if my child gets chickenpox? 

● No School: Be considerate of others. The contagious nature of chicken pox means that your child must remain at home until all the spots have crusted over when you are no longer contagious in order to prevent a classroom outbreak.

● Treatment: Calamine lotion reduces itching and discomfort. Paracetamol can help bring high temperatures down if your child is uncomfortable.

● Remaining hydrated: It is important that your child stays hydrated, so ensure that they drink plenty of water. 

● Avoiding itching: Encourage your child to wear loose clothes and cut their nails to reduce blister scratching. 

● Not sure if its Chickenpox? While Chickenpox can pass without the need to see a GP, you should contact your GP if your child’s condition deteriorates such as they appear dehydrated or the skin around the blisters appears red. 

What else should we check before the kids go back to school?

Eyesight:

80% of what a child is taught in the classroom is presented to them visually therefore what they see can heavily affect their development, achievement and confidence. Routine eyesight assessments should be done every 1-2 years to make sure your child is not silently suffering from eyesight impairments. Have their eyes checked earlier if they seem to have a short attention span, frequent headaches, frequently rub their eyes, see double, cover one eye or feel dizzy. 

Hearing:

Before your child begins back at school, it is a good idea to check your child’s hearing is all clear. It is important to identify problems early on in development as hearing problems can go undiagnosed for months and even years. Even an overly waxy ear can cause hearing issues and that can be easily resolved.

Teeth:

Visit your local dentist every 6 months and use a fluoride toothpaste to keep your child’s gums and teeth free of decay and plaque build-up. Encouraging good dental hygiene from a young age will positively impact us for life. Avoid fizzy drinks and sugary food, incorporate calcium in their diet for strong teeth and bones, change their toothbrush every three months to avoid the bristles becoming weak and bacterial build up, and only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.