Back to school can mean trip
to doctor's office for many
By Mike Bockoven
Sept 3, 2004
Now that school is in session, a large
number of area children are getting more than an education. They're
getting lice, colds, flu and other infections.
Dr. Doug Boon, pediatrician with the
Grand Island Clinic, said when school starts, oftentimes his office starts
filling up with children who have developed maladies due to exposure to
Given summer is usually a slower time for
communicable diseases, the influx from illnesses contracted at school has
"There are certain patterns of illnesses
that, when kids aren't in the same classroom for hours a day, we see on
the down side," Boon said. "When school starts we see head lice, strep
throat, other diseases that come from contact with other students."
The main issues parents of students
should pay attention to are complaints of illness, fever and other
telltale signs of sickness, Boon said. The Nebraska Department of Health
and Human Services has also alerted parents throughout the state to watch
for head scratching, which could be a sign of head lice, a very common
situation among students.
Wayne Kramer, state medical entomologist
for HHS, said checking children for head lice should be part of a family's
"We want families to make checking for
lice as basic an activity as brushing their teeth or washing their hands,"
Kramer said. "Head lice are common among elementary school students
because young children have a lot of contact with their classmates."
Lice are visible to the naked eye, and
can usually be taken care of by the use of insecticidal louse shampoo or
cream rinse products containing pyrethrins or permethrin. Lindane, a
prescription medication, is no longer recommended by HHS for treating head
While head lice can make an appearance
early in the year, Boon said the cold and flu season, which usually comes
along with the cold weather, can be a bigger burden on students and
schools. Several schools last year saw large numbers of sick students
during the height of the cold and flu season, and while there's not much
parents can do to control who sneezes on their child, there are basic
precautions that can be taken.
"A lot of these are spread through direct
contact, through drinking fountains, sharing a pop at lunch, or for high
school students, kissing," Boone said. "Parents should ask their kids not
to do things like share pop cans, and encourage basic hygiene like hand
The spread of disease can also be slowed
if a child who suspects they might be sick takes certain precautions, such
as sneezing into a tissue.
Boon said a big part of what he sees when
school starts up is located within certain schools. Because of that,
parents should be on the lookout for phone calls or notes from school
nurses, as they are usually acutely aware of outbreaks of any one illness
inside their school.
"You can see it within certain schools,"
he said. "Nurses usually become aware and a lot of times they will send
home a note. For some parents, the trick will be going through the
backpack and finding it."
The Grand Island Independent
422 W 1st Street
Grand Island, Nebraska 68802