Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest Post: Please Don't Spread The LoveBugs!

Melissa at Confessions of a Dr. Mom is a pediatrician turned mommy to two beautiful children.  She blogs about all things mommy with an occasional doctor twist.  Knowing our battles with viruses and bugs this time of year, I asked her to come today to talk about the causes and prevention of these not so nice interruptions.  I'm thrilled she's here!

Queenie asked me to put on my Doctor hat today and review some of the common back to school bugs and what we, as parents, can do to help contain and treat them when these 'lovebugs' are sent home with our children.

First of all realize it's inevitable. Children will get sick. I have yet to meet a child in school who went the whole school year without coming down with something. That being said, there are measures we can take to lessen the chances of our children falling prey to some of these viruses.
First, I will outline 5 of the most common culprits causing illness in the preschool and school age child during Fall and Winter. Then I will give you some practical tips on containing these viral bugs.
Hand Foot Mouth Disease: This is most commonly caused by the coxsackie virus and peaks in the summer and early Fall. This virus affects mostly young children (children under 10). The symptoms consist of a fever, decreased appetite, and sore throat. Usually painful mouth sores develop on the tongue, inside of cheeks and back of throat. This may or may not be accompanied by the non-itchy skin rash on palms and soles of feet.
The Common Cold: Your child may be afflicted with this a few times a year. The most common culprit here is the rhinovirus though there are several different viral strains producing symptoms of the common cold. Hence, several colds can be caught during one season. The symptoms vary but most commonly include: stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, mild fever, and sneezing.
The Flu: Ahh...the dreaded flu. Influenza and it's various strains cause the dreaded flu symptoms. As opposed to the common cold, the flu gives more pronounced and severe symptoms: high fever (usually over 100.4), sudden onset of symptoms, profound body aches, headache, and general malaise with decreased appetite. With the common cold, respiratory symptoms such as sneezing, congestion and cough are more prominent than in the flu. So far, the only preventive medical defense we have against this is the seasonal flu shot. This year, the CDC reports that there will be a trivalent seasonal flu shot to include the H1N1 strain as well as two other influenza strains. These should be available at the end of September.
Strep Throat: Unlike the above conditions, this one is caused by a bacteria (Group A Strep.) and not a virus. So, this must be treated with antibiotics. So how do you tell the difference from a common sore throat (viral pharyngitis) and strep throat? Here are the key differences: strep throat involves a higher fever (usually above 101 F), red and swollen throat with possible pus formation, absence of cough, and swollen lymph nodes in neck. Strep throat may also be accompanied by abdominal pain, possible vomiting, and a body rash.
Gastroenteritis aka the "stomach flu" is caused by several different types of viruses, most notably rotavirus and adenovirus. The most prominent symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea. Some children may only have the vomiting, some only the diarrhea, and the unlucky ones will have both. This may be accompanied by fever and stomach ache. Having the so-called "stomach flu" does not mean you have the "flu" as in influenza.
I picked the above 5 conditions because they are by far the most common this time of year and they are highly contagious. There is just no way around it. Okay, so having thrown all that at you, what can you do to help minimize and contain these nasty viruses?
  1. Frequent hand washing is the number one way to help prevent the spread of these bugs. Encourage and teach your child to wash their hands several times throughout the day. Before eating, after using the potty, after playing outside, etc. Have them sing a song while washing to make sure they wash long enough (ABC song is a good one).
  2. Carry sanitizer. I always wipe my kids' hands as soon as they get into the car from school. This time of year, it's just a good habit. That being said, we have already had 2 of the 5 above and we're only 3 weeks into the new school year.'s worthwhile. Wipe down shopping cart handles too.
  3. Encourage children to sneeze and cough into their arms or a tissue.
  4. Keep children home if they have a fever, are vomiting, or have significant diarrhea.
  5. Teach them not to share drinking cups or utensils with their friends.
  6. By all means, sanitize the toys and personal items in your house after a bout with any of the above.
  7. Make sure your children get enough sleep, eat well balanced meals, and exercise regularly. All of these will help insure that their immune systems stay in tip top shape.
Good Luck to all of you this Fall and Winter season. Unfortunately, these bugs will make their way into our households just make sure your child gets plenty of rest, fluids, and love. Don't hesitate to contact your pediatrician whenever you're concerned or have questions regarding your child's health.
Thank you so much Queenie for having me here today. It's been a pleasure. Stay healthy.

My friends, I can't help but see the irony that today (the day the lovely Melissa is here to share her wisdom about "lovebugs"), I am home with 2 of my princesses who have conveniently captured and shared their own bugs.  Sigh.  The thrills of being a mom, right?  I hope you found some of this info helpful!  Here's to avoiding a sick(er) fall/winter!



  1. This is great info! Isis has only gotten sick once so far, but I really don't look forward to the next time, although I'm sure it'll happen eventually.

    I'm a major proponent of hand-washing & hand sanitizer. As a teacher, it's such a big deal. I was pregnant & doing a practicum in a kindergarten classroom & I think washing my hands & hand sanitizer are what kept me from getting sick! It's a big deal!

  2. Great post! Totally needed this right now as I experienced my first bug with my oldest daughter this weekend :( Fall and Winter is such a scary time when it comes to sicknesses. I pray all of our children stay well this season and next!


  3. You are my Nestwork buddy! Stopping over to say hello!

  4. Yeah, I always keep my kids home if they have a fever, throwing up,
    etc. The hardest thing is when it's a runny nose or cough. So many
    times those can persist for weeks on end and often are caused by
    allergies. We just can't hole up like that, so it takes some careful
    discernment. And of course it can get tricky with multiple kids- I
    can't keep them all home from school everytime one of them gets sick,
    even if it's likely they will eventually get sick too. It's tough!

    I do agree though, church nurseries can be the worst!

  5. Yes, it is the right thing to do if your little one is sick. It's best for the little one and for everyone else. I realize it's not the easiest thing to do, but it's the best thing to do.

  6. The church nursery is quite a little germ fest too! I have a 5 month old and I can't even leave her in there yet because so many people bring their super sick babies to church...snot, etc. everywhere. I'm not ready to expose my munchkin to all of that yet. I know it's hard to keep little ones home every time they get sick but, isn't it the right thing to do? I'm sure this will come back to haunt me:) hahah

  7. Oh, so sorry to hear you have two sick little ones today! Hope they get through it quickly. Last week was a tough one for us over here but now all is well. Thanks so much for having me today! Wishing your princesses a speedy recovery:)

  8. This is a great guest post, especially as a reminder at the beginning of the school year.

    I hope your family is feeling better soon!


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