AVOIDING SICK DAYS
School-aged children are often exposed to a dizzying array of illnesses or suffer from injuries that can potentially cause them to miss time in the classroom. Kids are often at a high risk of these illnesses as many can be contagious and can be picked up by their peers, while the most common injuries are byproducts of an active life as a child. These are some of the most common reasons that kids are kept home from school.
Influenza, also known as "the flu," is a common upper respiratory illness despite widespread vaccination efforts. It's very contagious, which makes school and the flu incompatible, and makes those afflicted feel very ill with fever, cough, runny nose and other symptoms. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), serious complications can arise, especially for the very young, the very old, and those who are immunocompromised.
Gastroenteritis is commonly called the "stomach flu," but it's not the same illness as influenza at all. Instead, it's caused by a few different (and extremely contagious) viruses that does a number on your child's stomach and intestines, often resulting in vomiting and diarrhea -- not what you want your kids doing at school. Also, it feels awful and definitely necessitates ensuring your child stays hydrated and home from school.
Strep throat is also quite contagious. Caused by a specific bacteria (Group A Streptococcus), it causes a severe sore throat, fever, pain, and overall feeling terrible). Strep throat, unlike a viral sore throat, needs antibiotic treatment, as untreated strep can lead to severe complications, such as damaged heart valves. The only way to tell strep from a virus, however, is a doctor's visit and a throat swab.
Conjunctivitis is more commonly known as "pinkeye." It's caused by either bacteria or a virus, and is unfortunately quite contagious. Bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with antibiotic drops, although most cases are viral in nature and these drops are not always prescribed. In addition to proper hand-washing -- which can limit its spread, according to the CDC -- doctors may suggest a cold or warm compress or artificial tears.
Lice is an unpleasant insect infestation of hair on the head, and can be one of the least pleasant events of a child's life, especially for his or her parent. It's spread by head-to-head contact, and the bugs are prolific breeders, laying eggs on the hair shaft to begin a few new generations on a child's head. While not inherently harmful or dangerous, lice is itchy, gross, and can be hard to get rid of. Kids with lice usually stay out of school for a bit while they undergo treatment.
Impetigo is a skin infection caused by bacteria -- usually staph or strep -- that causes irritation, itching and pain. It can usually be identified by its honey-colored crust that seems from the sores, and needs an antibiotic to clear up. The Mayo Clinic recommends keeping your child at home and out of school until they are no longer contagious -- usually 24 hours after beginning antibiotic treatment.
While fever in and of itself is not an illness -- only a sign or symptom of one -- most school districts prefer that parents keep feverish kids home from school as it usually represents that the body is in the process of fighting off an illness.
As far as injuries go, playground injuries tend to (unsurprisingly) affect school-aged children the most, and the CDC reports that 200,000 kids under the age of 14 go to the ER every year due to these sorts of events Kids who are 5 to 9 years old tend to visit the ER most often than other age groups, and girls are a tad bit more likely than boys to be affected. Ensuring that children are actively supervised, dressed appropriately, and play on sites that shock-absorbing surfaces such as rubber or mulch can help cut down on incidents.
Sports injuries can also keep kids out of school -- in fact, more than 2.5 million kids and teens are treated in ERs around the country every year. The most common injuries treated are sprains and strains, but there are other injuries that can affect a school-aged child. Contact sports tend to be more dangerous than non-contact sports, but all sports activities have injury potential.