Preventing illness during ‘Back to School’

By Mikie Strite - Special to Times-Sentinel

It’s that time of year again — back to school. All of you parents can take a sweet sigh of relief because your kids are headed back to the classroom. While we’ve taught them all about the importance of sharing with their classmates, we sometimes forget that some things just shouldn’t be shared. Back to school time can sometimes lead to back to school illnesses from sharing germs. This article is going to discuss some of these illnesses your child might encounter at school.

Most of the time, these illnesses are not cause for too much concern but they can be uncomfortable for the children who do get sick with them. We will go over signs, symptoms, and prevention measures for the following common school age illnesses; Hand, Foot, and Mouth and Fifth Disease.

Let’s start with Hand, Foot and Mouth (HFM). HFM is an illness caused by viruses that belong to the Enterovirus group. While this virus usually affects infants and children younger than 5, it can sometimes affect older children and even adults. Symptoms usually start with a fever, reduced appetite, sore throat, and a general feeling of being unwell. A couple days after the fever starts, sores can develop in the mouth, as well as on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The virus can be found in an infected person’s saliva and mucus, in blister fluid, and in feces. Because of this, it is important to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after changing diapers and using the toilet, to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and items, and to avoid close contact with anyone who has HFM.

Next we’re going to talk about Fifth Disease. Fifth Disease is an illness caused by parvovirus B19 and is usually more common in children than adults. While usually mild, symptoms include fever, runny nose, headache, and rash. The rash can occur on your body and face. The red rash that can occur on your face, known as the “slapped cheek” rash, is the most common sign of Fifth Disease. Parvovirus B19 can spread through respiratory secretions like saliva or mucus when a person coughs or sneezes. Once infected with Fifth Disease, you develop immunity which will likely protect you from future infections.

The best way to prevent infection is through washing your hands often with soap and water, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, avoiding contact with people who are sick, and staying home when you yourself are sick.

The moral of the story? Teach your kids good hand hygiene. Many illnesses can be prevented through properly washing your hands. It’s also important to keep your children home when they have a fever or diarrhea, as other illnesses not mentioned in this article can be spread. If you have more questions, check out

By Mikie Strite

Special to Times-Sentinel

Mikie Strite is the regional epidemiologist for Southeast Ohio including Meigs County under the PHEP Grant.

Mikie Strite is the regional epidemiologist for Southeast Ohio including Meigs County under the PHEP Grant.