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5 Common Illnesses Kids Pick Up at School




What Should I Look For? Area of reddened skin with honey-colored discharge on top.

How Contagious Is It? Impetigo spreads only through direct contact with the infected area.

What Prevents It? Frequent handwashing; keeping any cuts or sores covered.


Strep Throat


What Should I Look For? Fever and sore throat—but no cough or congestion.

How Contagious Is It? Very, among children in close contact. The bacteria can also be picked up from doorknobs or utensils. A child with strep shouldn't return to school until on antibiotics for 24 hours.

What Prevents It? Not sharing anything, especially drinks or food. Get your kid a new toothbrush after the first 24 hours on antibiotics to avoid a repeat infection.

Fifth Disease


What Should I Look For? Sore throat, low-grade fever, headache, then a facial rash like bright-red, slapped cheeks, and a lace-like rash on the chest, back, and arms. If your child has an impaired immune system or blood disease, call the doctor if he's been exposed.

How Contagious Is It? Moderately early on, but not after the rash has appeared.

What Prevents It? Frequent handwashing; not sharing food or drinks.


Chicken Pox


What Should I Look For? First, a fever and/or sore throat, then a rash that looks like pimples or little bug bites, usually first seen on the abdomen or back.

How Contagious Is It? Highly, through the airborne virus and the blisters, until every last one has crusted over and new ones aren't appearing.

What Prevents It? Vaccination at 12 to 18 months and again at 4 to 6 years. A vaccinated child can still get chicken pox, but it'll be a shorter, milder case.



What Should I Look For? Fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting, confusion. Viral meningitis is more common but also less serious than bacterial meningitis, which can be life-threatening. The only way to tell the difference is by testing the spinal fluid, so call the doctor immediately if you suspect meningitis.

How Contagious Is It? Very. It spreads through nasal mucus and fecal contamination.

What Prevents It? The Hib vaccine for bacterial meningitis; thorough handwashing, especially after using the bathroom.