Protecting Kids From Disease
A schoolroom full of children is an ideal environment for disease transmission. Many school systems or local health departments require that children have a full set of immunizing shots before they go to school. Polio, measles, mumps, rubella or German measles, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, meningitis, chickenpox and hepatitis B may be uncommon now, but they are still around and can be dangerous.
Getting immunized you can fight disease in two ways. First, you protect yourselves and your family from the disease. Second, you protect others because if you don’t have a disease, you can’t spread it. Check with your doctor to find out what shots are required and which are recommended.
Most states require children to get their shots before starting school. If a child is sick or has had a serious reaction to a previous vaccination – to neomycin or to eggs – tell your doctor before any new vaccinations.
Serious reactions to immunizations are rare. Nevertheless, as your child receives his or her scheduled shots, ask your doctor about symptoms to watch for.
Every parent should also be familiar with the symptoms of these common diseases: pink eye or conjunctivitis, cold sores, infectious mononucleosis, strep throat and, in some areas, Lyme disease. Except for an experimental Lyme disease vaccine, there are no vaccines against these diseases. One of the most effective ways of reducing disease transmission, at home and in school, is to wash your hands frequently and well.
Bacteria or a virus can cause conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. Yellowish or whitish pus may cause the eyelids to stick shut in the morning. If bacteria caused the infection, an antibiotic can help. However, antibiotics do not affect viruses. Dust, pollen or other foreign matter causes another form of conjunctivitis.
A type of the herpes simplex virus causes cold sores. People usually contract the virus from contact with the saliva or lesions of another person. Typically, cold sores form a scab and heal within a few days, but the infection can spread through an entire family, through kissing or by touching an object the infected person had in his or her mouth. A medicated ointment can be effective; wear latex gloves when applying it and then discard them.
Contact with the saliva of an infected person also spreads infectious mononucleosis, which is why it’s sometimes called “kissing disease.” The Epstein-Barr virus causes it. Younger children may show no symptoms. Older people may experience fever, fatigue, a sore throat and inflamed lymph nodes. Most people have had it by the time they are 18 and are immune thereafter.
Strep throat, a streptococcus infection, can spread rapidly in crowded conditions, when someone who is infected coughs or sneezes. The soar throat can be severe, and a headache and fever can accompany it. Strep infections should be treated quickly because they can lead to scarlet fever, rheumatic fever and pneumonia. Rheumatic fever can cause permanent damage to the heart valves.