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Ill toddler

Once your child starts school, they might bring home more than just homework. Dr Carol Cooper tells you what common classroom illnesses to expect, and how to treat them


Symptoms: This bacterial skin infection is most often seen around the lips, nose and ears. It first appears as small blisters, which crust over to become yellow-brown scabs.

Treatment: It’s rarely serious but spreads easily, so see your GP as soon as any symptoms appear. Prescribed antibiotic cream should clear up the infection within five days. Wash the affected area daily with cotton wool dipped in water, and blot dry with a paper towel.

Prevention: Keep your child’s flannel and towels separate from the rest of the family’s.

Did you know? Cold sores, caused by the herpes simplex virus (carried by an estimated 80 per cent of the population), can look very similar to impetigo, so check with your GP.

Head lice

Symptoms: These small, wingless insects live close to the scalp and suck blood, which causes intense itching and scratching.

Treatment: It’s really common, so check your child’s head weekly for lice and their eggs (‘nits’) by combing their damp, washed hair with a fine-toothed lice comb. Plastic combs are best for removing sticky lice eggs. If these measures are ineffective, a range of headlice treatments are available – ask your pharmacist for advice.

Prevention: Follow instructions carefully, and wash all combs and towels at 60°C after use to prevent re-infestation. Inform the school as soon as you discover lice or nits.

Did you know? Head lice prefer clean scalps and like both long and short hair.


Symptoms: This highly-contagious virus starts as itchy oval blisters 
on the body, which scab over 
after a few days.

Treatment: Keeping your child cool and dressed in loose cotton helps minimise any discomfort. Keep fingernails short to reduce skin damage from scratching. Apply soothing calamine lotion or cream to the affected areas. You can give an antihistamine syrup to children over a year old to help relieve itching – ask your pharmacist for advice. There is no need to consult a doctor unless your child is very feverish, seems unwell in herself or refuses to drink.

Prevention: Keep your child away from others – especially pregnant women who’ve not had chickenpox – until every spot has crusted over.

Did you know? Chickenpox is most common between the ages
 of two and eight years old.

Winter vomiting disease

Symptoms: The most common cause of gut infection in the UK causes projectile vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and fever for up to 48 hours. It is rarely dangerous and there’s no need to consult your GP unless vomiting is accompanied by a worrying symptom, such as earache.

Treatment: Offer plenty of bed rest and ensure your child keeps sipping water to replace lost fluids. Your pharmacist can advise on a suitable rehydrating solution.

Prevention: Keep your child off school until they have gone 48 hours without symptoms, to help stop the illness spreading. Good hygiene will help contain the virus at home.

Did you know? Winter vomiting disease spreads most readily in enclosed areas where people have lots of contact, such as schools, hospitals and cruise ships.


Symptoms: Itching around the back passage, especially at night, is often the only symptom. If you see thin white worms about 1cm long in your child’s stools, then you’ve made the diagnosis.

Treatment: Ask your pharmacist about over-the-counter remedies, which the whole family should take. Also wash all towels and bedclothes at 60°C to help eradicate the worms.

Prevention: Threadworms live in the gut. Their eggs transfer on fingernails, so washing hands after using the loo stops them spreading.

Did you know? Household pets cannot catch or pass on human threadworms.

Asthma awareness

During winter, school can be tough for asthma sufferers as they come into contact with more coughs and colds. If your child has been diagnosed with asthma, make sure they have the correct inhaler with them at school, that it is labelled with their name and is always accessible.

Take time to talk to the school about your child’s asthma, its triggers and symptoms. For more information, visit Asthma UK.

For more school healthcare advice, talk to your Tesco pharmacist. Use the store locator to find your nearest Tesco Pharmacy

If you liked this article, read more about preschool health.


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