“Hello Ms Jones. Sophie isn’t feeling well. Could you please come and pick her up from the sick bay?”

Why does this always happen as you are half way through your grocery shop or about to sit down with a coffee with your girlfriend? The classroom is not only a breeding ground for fertile imaginations but also for school bugs.

While there’s often no realistic way to prevent children catching infections at school, being able to spot the symptoms means parents can manage the illness and potentially stop them spreading the bugs. Over three editions, we will look at the top five school bugs. Here are the top two:

  1. Coughs and colds.

Snot, coughs and sore throats are usually caused by a virus. Viruses are treated with fluids and rest as antibiotics don’t make any difference. Viruses are catchy, but their spread can be reduced by keeping your child at home and good hand hygiene.

  1. School Sores (aka Impetigo).

These crusty yellow sores are caused by staphylococcal or streptococcus bacterial infection that lives on the skin. More common during the warmer months, Impetigo gets into the deeper layers of the skin through cuts and sores on the skin. These sores are filled with bacteria which can weep; which makes it a highly contagious infection. Impetigo is generally not dangerous but usually needs a trip to the GP to get treated with antibiotics. Good hand hygiene, covering the sores with a dressing and not picking at scabs are the key to stopping this spreading amongst friends and family.



  1. Head lice (aka Nits).

Head lice are not dangerous; just annoying. They always seem to get found just as you are about to walk out the door to school. Head lice are tiny parasites that live on the scalp. They lay their eggs (nits) near the base of the hair shaft. Head lice spread quickly at school because kids often work and play closely and share personal items. Head lice don’t fly or jump; they can only crawl from head to head.

Some suggestions to reduce the chance of catching head lice include:

  • Not sharing hairbrushes, hair ties, hats or any other hair accessories.
  • Keeping long hair tied up. Plaits are the best way to keep hair under control at school.
  • Checking your child’s head regularly for evidence of nits or lice.

It is a lucky parent that escapes having to deal with head lice. If you do find yourself with a case of the dreaded head lice, pop into your local chemist to get a head lice treatment solution.



  1. Gastro.

Vomiting and diarrhoea are things that school children often bring home from school and share with their families. Most gastro settles within 24 hours, and the key is hydration – lots of water or oral rehydrating solution. Most gastro is caused by a virus and will settle on its own without treatment. The spread can be reduced by keeping your child at home and good hand hygiene.

  1. Conjunctivitis (aka Pink Eye).

Conjunctivitis is an infection that can be caused by a virus or bacteria or an eye irritation such as an allergy. Conjunctivitis is ‘eye snot’ and is quite contagious, so good hand hygiene is essential, especially after your child has touched their eye. Conjunctivitis doesn’t require treatment with antibiotics, it usually gets better on its own. The infected eyes can be kept clean by using clean cotton wool balls soaked in warm water; a new ball should be used with each wipe and disposed of into the bin immediately.

With your child spending more time in group environments like school, they will be building their immunity. While they may get sick more often during this period, most of the time all that is required are fluids, rest and paracetamol. If you are concerned, your family GP is always there to help.