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5 min read

Myths and Misconceptions: School Illnesses

illustration of schoolchildren with different illnesses

Medical misinformation is incredibly dangerous. At Medical Tracker, we believe you should have all of the facts to be able to make informed choices around when to contact a doctor, and when a child can be sent into school.

 

That’s why, in this campaign, we’ve concentrated on five illnesses that can affect children and the misconceptions that surround them. Come with us as we debunk these myths and explain the facts of the matter. Afterwards, why not download our printable PDF for easy, offline access to this vital information?

 

What are the five illnesses?

 

We’re focusing on five schoolyard illnesses. They are:

 

Chickenpox

This is incredibly common in children, and, whilst uncomfortable, is usually fairly mild. The main symptom is an itchy, spotty rash that can cause scarring if scratched repeatedly. Chickenpox tends to go away on its own after a week or two, and usually you won’t need any extra medicines from your GP. 

However, there can be future issues. Shingles and chickenpox are caused by the same virus, which can linger in your system and reappear when your immune system is compromised - by stress or immuno-compromising treatments for example.

 

Impetigo 

Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection that causes sores and blotchy rashes on the skin. Whilst these can be itchy and painful, most cases of impetigo aren’t serious and will resolve themselves in seven to 10 days. 

Impetigo is very contagious, so you should be careful if you come in contact with someone who has it.

 

Group A strep 

This is another illness frequently seen in children. It is a bacterial infection, and appears as a sore throat and flu-like symptoms. Strep A is mostly non-serious, and is treated with antibiotics. 

However it can become more serious if it develops into invasive group A strep (iGAS).

 

Tonsillitis 

Tonsillitis is an infection on your tonsils (at the back of your throat). This is common in children and can be very uncomfortable, with symptoms including but not limited to a sore throat, trouble swallowing, a high temperature, and increased tiredness. Tonsillitis is rarely serious, and tends to clear up in three to four days without the need for antibiotics.  

You may need medical intervention if you or a child gets ill frequently, or there are complicating factors like asthma that affect breathing.

 

Meningitis 

Unlike the other illnesses in this list, meningitis can be incredibly dangerous if left untreated. Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes around the brain and spine, and can cause sepsis (blood poisoning) or lasting nerve damage. Symptoms include stiffness, a high temperature, listlessness and a rash that is still visible beneath a glass when you apply pressure.

Meningitis can also have long-lasting consequences, like hearing or sight loss, recurrent seizures, and in some cases it can lead to amputations. It can even be fatal.

 

How you can help

If you have any concerns about a child, it’s important to contact a medical professional for personalised advice. Additionally, teachers and school staff should be on the lookout for common symptoms. You spend a lot of time around your students, and are well-equipped to notice changes in behaviour that may be a precursor to illness. 

Schools should also continue taking a proactive approach to illnesses. Below we’ve listed some tips and tricks to help you minimise the spread of infections to others on school grounds.

  • Ensure children and adults wash their hands frequently.
  • Have hand sanitiser in high traffic areas or near common touch points, like door handles.
  • Keep children at home whilst they’re contagious to prevent spreading their illness.
  • Consider wearing a mask if you’re comfortable doing so.
  • Encourage children to cover their mouths when they cough and catch sneezes in tissues whenever possible.
  • Record and track infectious diseases

These methods help to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses so that everyone can have a positive school experience - and stay healthy.

 

Debunking the myths

With the basics in mind, it’s now time to explore the common misconceptions people have about these conditions. Click through the interactive element below to learn more about the pervading myths and what the factual information actually is. You might be surprised by some of the answers. Click on the icons below to find out more.

For the recommended time off from school and work, click the exclamation points for each illness.

 

Dangers in pregnancy

These illnesses, whilst usually not a concern for adults (with the exception of meningitis), can have serious complications for pregnant people, including teachers and other school staff members. During pregnancy, your immune system is focused on protecting the foetus, which means you may find it harder to fight off infections. Additionally, whilst a baby is still developing, they’re more susceptible to long-term conditions due to illness.

For example, impetigo can be dangerous during pregnancy. Impetigo herpetiformis is particularly dangerous for pregnant people, because it can affect the placenta (the connection between parent and foetus that provides nutrients). This can lead to developmental complications, and even neonatal mortality.

Higher temperatures from fevers can also have an impact on pregnancy. In the first 12 weeks (first trimester), an elevated temperature can lead to an increased risk of foetal complications.

It’s essential that children stay out of school or playgroup until they’re well again. Not only will the rest help them to recover quicker, this protects their classmates, and also any pregnant teachers or staff members, from catching their illness and developing complications.

There have always been a lot of misconceptions around common illnesses, and it’s important to cut through these for the safety of everyone. Information is protection, for you, for students, and for others in the school environment.

Help us spread awareness and bust these myths using the hashtag #MaladyMyths.



Sources

Chickenpox

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chickenpox/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/shingles/

 

Impetigo

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/impetigo/

https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/impetigo

https://www.everydayhealth.com/impetigo/faqs-answers/

https://www.healthline.com/health/impetigo

 

Tonsillitis

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tonsillitis/

 

Meningitis

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/meningitis/

 

How you can help

https://neu.org.uk/advice/health-and-safety/accidents-injuries-and-illness/infectious-diseases-schools/

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/is-my-child-too-ill-for-school/

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-protection-in-schools-and-other-childcare-facilities/preventing-and-controlling-infections

 

Dangers in pregnancy

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/impetigo-herpetiformis/

https://www.nct.org.uk/pregnancy/worries-and-discomforts/common-discomforts/hot-weather-and-high-body-temperature-during-pregnancy/

https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/vaccinations/

https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/infections-that-may-affect-your-baby/

 

Debunking the myths sources

 

Chickenpox

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11036-shingles

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-protection-in-schools-and-other-childcare-facilities/preventing-and-controlling-infections

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chickenpox/

 

Impetigo

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Impetigo/



Group A strep

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/strep-a/

https://ukhsa.blog.gov.uk/2022/12/05/group-a-strep-what-you-need-to-know/

https://www.cdc.gov/groupastrep/diseases-public/index.html

https://www.everydayhealth.com/strep-throat/different-types-streptococcal/

https://www.yalemedicine.org/conditions/strep-throat

https://www.who.int/emergencies/disease-outbreak-news/item/2022-DON429

https://www.who.int/teams/immunization-vaccines-and-biologicals/diseases/streptococcus-pyrogenes

 

Tonsillitis

https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/decision-support-tool-making-a-decision-about-recurrent-tonsillitis-in-children-and-adults.pdf

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-protection-in-schools-and-other-childcare-facilities/preventing-and-controlling-infections

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Tonsillitis/

 

Meningitis

https://www.publichealth.org/public-awareness/understanding-vaccines/vaccine-myths-debunked/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/meningitis/causes/

https://www.meningitisnow.org/support-us/news-centre/news-stories/top-5-myths-about-meningitis/

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/829326/PHE_meningo_disease_guideline.pdf

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/meningitis/

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