The kids are officially back at school! Whether you’re relieved to see them head back to class, or feeling mournful about your now empty house, there’s certainly one thing you can count on happening within the next few weeks: someone will get ill.
Yes, common childhood illnesses are inevitable, especially at the beginning of term when kids are all brought together in a classroom to share resources and play together.
For the most part, these common childhood illnesses will be nothing more than a simple cold, however, there are some more serious childhood illnesses that can be easily spread and caught through schools, nurseries, and colleges. Some of these may even cause concern for pregnant individuals.
In today’s world, information flows at the speed of light, and with it comes a deluge of medical advice and, sadly, misinformation. This blog post is all about shedding light on the importance of countering medical misinformation, especially when it comes to common childhood illnesses. We’re working with Medical Tracker on their latest campaign to debunk the myths surrounding the five prevalent childhood illnesses: Chickenpox, Impetigo, Group A strep, Tonsillitis, and Meningitis.
So, let’s dive in!
The 5 most common childhood illnesses
Before we start debunking myths, let’s take a look at the most common childhood illnesses that parents and carers are likely to experience during the school years.
When it comes to common childhood illnesses, Chickenpox is probably the most well known and talked about ailment. Although it can be uncomfortable, this extremely common illness is usually mild and normally goes away on its own after a week or two. With this being said, there can be issues further down the line if the virus lingers in your system and you become immuno-compromised from stress or medical treatments as Shingles and Chickenpox are caused by the same virus.
Impetigo is another common childhood illness that causes rashes and sore patches on the skin. Just like Chickenpox, Impetigo can be painful and uncomfortable, however, in most cases, the illness will resolve itself within 7 – 10 days.
Group A Strep
This is another common childhood illness that is easily spread in a school environment. The bacterial infection causes a sore throat and flu-like symptoms, however, for the most part, it’s not serious and can be treated with antibiotics.
We’ve all experienced the pain and discomfort associated with Tonsillitis, and unfortunately, our children are not exempt from sore throats, tiredness, increased body temperature, and trouble swallowing either. Although uncomfortable, this common childhood illness usually clears up within a few days, however in some cases, antibiotics may be needed to manage the infection.
Another illness that is spoken about frequently is, of course, Meningitis. It’s highly likely that you have heard of this childhood illness and that is because, unlike the other common childhood illnesses listed above, Meningitis can be incredibly dangerous if left untreated. This infection can cause sepsis or lasting nerve damage. Additionally, it can have long-lasting consequences, like hearing or sight loss and seizures. It can lead to amputations, and can even be fatal.
It’s important that parents and carers know the facts from the fiction when it comes to spotting these common childhood illnesses, so let’s take a look at some popular misconceptions surrounding the above mentioned complaints.
Deciphering the fact from the fiction when it comes to common childhood illnesses.
Let’s take a look at the most common misconceptions and myths that are associated with the illnesses listed above.
- If you have had Chickenpox, you will be immune to it for life.
Unfortunately, as much as I wish I could say this information was true, this is not the case for some people. When you catch Chickenpox, your body creates antibodies to fight off the virus. However, not everyone who contracts Chickenpox will have made enough antibodies to be immune, thus leaving them vulnerable to contracting the common childhood illness again.
- If you’ve had Chickenpox, you cannot contract Shingles.
Again, this information is false! Shingles is caused by the same virus as Chickenpox and occurs when the Chickenpox virus has not completely left the body. Due to this, it is possible for the virus to reactivate later in life, leading to the development of Shingles. The chances of this happening is still relatively high considering how common this myth is, with 1 in 10 people developing Shingles later in life.
- You don’t need treatment for Chickenpox.
Although in most cases this may be true, there is treatment available for those who are at high risk or have low immunity. Antiviral medicines such as aciclovir or immunoglobulin can alleviate symptoms and reduce the risk of further complications.
- Impetigo and Strep A are the same illness.
This information is false, Impetigo can be caused by group A Streptococcus or Staphylococcus aureus – or even both.
- Impetigo can only be passed on to someone else when the symptoms are visible.
This is false – symptoms can take up to 10 days to appear, however, it is highly contagious during the entire time.
- It is the same as hand, foot and mouth disease.
Impetigo does not appear in the mouth, unlike hand, foot and mouth which appears inside the mouth, palms and soles of the feet.
- There’s only one type of Strep.
There are many types of streptococcus bacteria: Group A streptococcus, Group B streptococcus, Group C streptococcus, and Group G streptococcus. The most well-known of these types is Group A streptococcus, also known as strep A.
- Strep is simply a bad sore throat.
In addition to a sore throat, symptoms can include a fever, pain and swelling, painful stomach issues, a severe rash, headaches, and even nausea or vomiting.
- Strep can only be spread by touching surfaces contaminated with the bacteria.
Touching a contaminated area is only one way to contract Strep. It can also be caught through sneezes and coughs as it is transmitted through water drops.
- Tonsillitis is contagious.
It may shock you to discover that this common childhood illness isn’t actually contagious. However, the pathogens that are responsible for the inflammation, are.
- If you contract Tonsillitis, you need to have your tonsils removed.
This is false. Doctors will only recommend removing tonsils if you are repeatedly developing tonsillitis or it starts to affect your breathing.
- Herd immunity will protect me from Meningitis, so I don’t need a vaccine.
Herd immunity can protect you from Meningitis, however, it is only beneficial for those who cannot get the vaccine. It only works if the majority of people who are able to vaccinate themselves against the illnesses do so. Herd immunity is not foolproof, so if you do not get vaccinated when you are able, you can still contract the illness.
- Meningitis is always fatal.
If you fear you or your child may have Meningitis, it’s important for you to know that not everyone who contracts the illness will die. Bacterial meningitis is fatal in around 10% of cases.
- If I have been vaccinated against it, I can’t catch Meningitis.
Unfortunately, there is no type of vaccine that will be able to protect you against all forms of meningitis, it’s therefore imperative that you familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms associated with Meningitis and seek medical help as early as possible.
Can my child go to school if they have a common childhood illness?
One of the main concerns parents and carers have when their child contracts a common childhood illness is wondering what to do when it comes to school. If you think your child has any of the above ailments, here’s what to do:
- Chickenpox – keep off until the spots have crusted over
- Impetigo – remain at home until sores have dried, blistered, or crusted over
- Strep A – keep off from school for 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment
- Tonsillitis – children will likely feel too poorly to attend school
- Meningitis – seek immediate medical attention
I’m pregnant – can these common illnesses affect me?
All of these illnesses can have complications if you’re pregnant. This is because, during pregnancy, your immune system is primarily focused on protecting your baby, which means your body may find it harder to fight off infections and illnesses.
In our age of instant information, it’s vital to distinguish reliable facts from misleading myths, especially when it comes to these common childhood illnesses.
Our collaboration with Medical Tracker has allowed us to unravel the truths and debunk the misconceptions surrounding Chickenpox, Impetigo, Group A strep, Tonsillitis, and Meningitis. Now that you’re armed with accurate information, you’ll be better equipped to protect your children, students, and the pregnant individuals in your community.
If you have found this post useful, you may also like to read about How To Treat Hay Fever Symptoms or take a look at our Top Tips For Teaching Children About Personal Hygiene.