You get a school notice about head lice in your kid’s classroom and know your first-grader has been scratching her head incessantly. Or you take your football-playing son to the doctor with what you think is an infected spider bite, and it’s diagnosed as the bacterial skin infection MRSA.
Many illnesses that are easily spread peak in the fall and winter months, and this is particularly true among kids as they settle into school routines among their equally germ-prone peers.
“If you’re talking about reports of clusters of cases that we hear from schools about, No. 1 and 2 are cold and flu-type symptoms and stomach virus-type symptoms,” says Matt Zahn, Orange County’s medical director of epidemiology.
“And there really isn’t a close third.”
It’s almost a given that parents will encounter either of those two or one of the other contagious illnesses and ailments on the list. Here is a guide to their causes, how to identify symptoms and how to treat them. The treatments are based on scientific evidence and best practices, but your pediatrician might have recommendations better suited to your situation.
Influenza, commonly known as flu, is an infectious respiratory illness. Fall sparks the onset of flu season; it typically peaks in late December to February and then may stretch into May. While seasonal flu and the common cold share many symptoms, a fever is almost always present with the flu and is less common in colds.
“The big thing that distinguishes between flu and a cold for me is that the kids will be really achy with the flu,” says Dr. Angela S. Dangvu, a pediatrician at Pediatric & Adult Medicine in Tustin, a member of CHOC Children’s Network. “Their legs will ache, their back will hurt, whereas you wouldn’t normally see that with a cold. And just the way they look. … They just look sicker.”
Vaccination is the best method in preventing influenza each year. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…