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Grand Island Independent

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 their classmates.

Given summer is usually a slower time for communicable diseases, the influx from illnesses contracted at school has already started.

"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 routine.

"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 lice.

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 washing."

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


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