Back-to-school season means new classrooms, new teachers and new friends, however when everyone returns indoors, we see a resurgence of germs and back-to-school illnesses. In this month’s blog, Dr. Hadley covers the most common contagious illnesses we see in our Nashville urgent care clinic when school goes back in session. Read on to learn their symptoms, how to prevent them and when to seek care from your pediatric provider or at a walk in clinic or urgent care for kids.
Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease
This viral infection is commonly seen in kids under 5 years of age, however, it can infect any person of any age. HFM is transmitted by close contact or respiratory droplets, so preschool-aged kids who don’t know basic hand hygiene are very susceptible to catching it – that is why we often hear about outbreaks in daycare centers and programs for younger kids. It is highly contagious and can easily spread from one child to their whole family.
Symptoms of Hand, Foot & Mouth
HFM typically begins with a fever, sore throat and fatigue and is then followed by a rash to the mouth, palms of the hands, soles of the feet and the arms and legs. Some kids do not exhibit the rash in all possible locations. HFM is most contagious during its first week of symptoms, this is why it is important to keep kids home from school if they exhibit a fever – the rash may not show up until a few days later.
Treatment for Hand, Foot & Mouth
Because HFM is a viral infection, the virus must run its course. You can treat the pain and fever with over-the-counter medications at home. The lesions that occur in the mouth can be quite painful, so it is important to keep a close watch on fluid intake in children with HFM as they can easily become dehydrated. Keep children with HFM well-hydrated to prevent dehydration before it starts, and seek care early should you become concerned that your child is not taking enough fluids. Medication can be prescribed to help prevent dehydration, so contact your pediatric provider or visit an urgent care clinic or walk in clinic for further evaluation and treatment.
For more information on HFM signs and symptoms, see the CDC website here and the the Mayo Clinic website here.
Pink eye is the common name for conjunctivitis, or inflammation of the eye. It can be infectious or allergic in nature. Pink eye is most commonly viral, but prompt evaluation is needed to assess for bacterial sources. It is highly contagious, and the duration of the infection varies.
Pink Eye Symptoms
Redness, itching and watering of one or both eyes are the most common symptoms of pink eye. It is often accompanied by crusting around the eyes and discharge.
Treatment for Pink Eye
It is best to seek care for pink eye early to determine if antibiotics may be needed. If your pediatric provider is unable to see your child quickly or is closed, our West Nashville urgent care clinic is open from 9am to 7pm every day to assess your child and get antibiotics started, if warranted. It is important to frequently wash hands when exhibiting symptoms of pink eye and to avoid touching the infected eye. If your child wears contacts, the current contacts should be disposed of and glasses should be worn until you are certain the infection has cleared.
For more information on pink eye, see the CDC website here and the Mayo Clinic website here.
Step throat is a bacterial tonsil and throat infection. Not all sore throats are strep throat – it is a unique bacterial infection that can be identified through proper testing. Strep throat is transmitted by close contact or respiratory droplets, and usually presents 2-5 days after exposure to the bacteria. You can still get a strep throat infection even once the tonsils are removed.
Symptoms of Strep Throat
Strep throat typically presents with a very sore throat and fever. It is often accompanied by white patches or streaking on the tonsils in the back of the throat. A child with strep throat usually has tender lymph nodes in and around the neck. Some people exhibit a sandpaper-like rash during/after a strep throat infection.
Treatment for Strep Throat
Because it is a bacterial infection, strep throat requires antibiotics. If the infection is left untreated, complications including abscess formation and rheumatic fever/rheumatic heart disease could occur. It is best to seek care and start treatment early if you are concerned that your child has strep throat. Remember that your child will still be contagious for about 24 hours after starting antibiotics for strep throat.
For more information on strep throat, see the CDC website here and the Mayo Clinic website here.
A Note on Antibiotics
Antibiotic resistance is a very real thing and on the rise. As a whole, the medical community over-prescribes antibiotics for conditions that do not always require them. At Complete Health Partners, we pride ourselves on responsible antibiotic stewardship – we work to diagnose and treat each individual patient with the right plan for their illness, not just a prescription for antibiotics for every sore throat or eye infection.
A few tips and trips for preventing the spread of illness in schools:
- Wash backpacks, lunch boxes and outerwear regularly – especially once cold and flu season hits
- Teach kids hand hygiene early
- Teach kids not to share utensils, drinks or food from an early age
- Upon arriving home from school, encourage kids to wash their hands right when they walk inside
- Clean/disinfect toys regularly, especially if your child has been sick
- Notify your school as soon as possible if your child is diagnosed with a contagious illness
If your child needs pediatric urgent care treatment, head to our Complete Urgent Care/Walk in Clinic to get your child appropriately diagnosed and treated. Our urgent care providers are trained in managing pediatric illnesses and injuries, and with a dedicated pediatric urgent care room with puzzles, books and legos, we are Nashville’s favorite spot for urgent care for kids!
Located by the old log cabin in front of Red Robin and Dicks Sporting Goods on Charlotte Pike, we offer urgent care and walk in care for kids and adults 7 days a week from 9am-7pm. With our online appointments, you can select a time that works for you and get seen on your schedule. Whether your child is returning to school in Davidson County or any Middle Tennessee school, we hope that armed with the information you learned in this blog post you will have your healthiest school year ever!
Disclaimer: While this information is meant to be informative, it is not intended to be medical advice or treatment or to replace the medical advice or treatment recommended by a medical provider. Each patient and illness is unique, so please seek proper medical care should you require it.