What Is Your Child Picking Up - Or Passing On At School?

24/02/2014 14:08 | Updated 22 May 2015

What is your child picking up - or passing on at school?Alamy

When your child starts school they usually pick up more colds and minor infections than ever and the bugs spread to most of the family. But will your child pick up more than you anticipated?

The unmentionables include nits, threadworms and impetigo.

Few schools 'name and shame' ; but maybe more openness would help eradicate these pesky parasites. All of these are highly contagious and it only takes one infected child to infect the entire class- or school.


Schools will often send letters, or put signs in reception declaring: 'We have nits in school,' as if it's some sort of achievement, but not offering any advice. And it's not just the children who suffer.

Lindsay's experience is common: "My son has had nits once, and he gave them to both me and his dad. His dad has longer hair than I do, and was NOT happy."

Emily's experience was worse: "My kids have had nits almost constantly for the past year. I think there must be a child in Ollie's class who is never treated."

At one time the 'nit nurse' was on patrol but she is now a rare species due to funding. If she is there, she isn't always helpful.

Sally said, "I wanted to die of shame and humiliation when my son got nits. And of course the school nurse had to comment on his long hair and how if it were short he would be less likely to get them."

It's not true that longer hair attracts nits - nits aren't choosy - but they do crawl from head to head, so loose hair makes this easier if it brushes against another infested head.

Head lice live on hair and suck blood from the scalp to survive. They like clean hair, can't jump or fly, so head-to-head contact, sharing combs or brushes, or hats, is the only way to catch them.

My daughter caught them at 14; we have no idea how but possibly her long hair brushed against another girl's on a crowded staircase. A maddeningly itchy head and the dozens of nits - the empty cream coloured shells of the eggs behind her ears - were proof.

Feeling ashamed still occurs. Alan said, "I told my parents about our son's nits. A horrified look came over their faces, but we just said it was very common and that we had some horrible shampoo for it."

Treatment for nits includes combing or using a special lotion. Combing with a fine tooth comb is recommended; this is because lice develop a resistance to chemicals and it is increasingly hard to kill them this way. Fine tooth combs are used on wet hair that has conditioner left in. Repeat treatment is best whichever method you use.

You can find out more about nits prevention and treatment here.



Threadworms are even more of a conversation stopper. "My child has an itchy bottom" are the words parents dread to utter. "I have one too," is even worse.


The eggs of worms are invisible to the naked eye. They live in dust, in soil, under finger nails where they are transferred to clothing, desks, books and toilet handles. They are caught by transference from hand to mouth.

There's no way to be certain your child has worms unless you spot one. And there's the problem; they prefer to come out at night when it's warm and cosy in bed, and lay their eggs.

You might see them in your child's poo - they look like small white threads- or around their bottom if, like some parents, you do the torchlight search the moment your child wakes up and shouts, "My bottom's itching!"

Killing the pesky worms necessitates all your housekeeping skills. Beds should be stripped and washed at 60C or higher to kill the eggs, as should nightwear and towels. Rooms should be vacuumed thoroughly, damp dusted, and fluffy toys that have been in the bed, washed or binned.

Then your child and the entire family should be treated with medication such as Ovex , even if no one else shows symptoms.

This can be repeated a week or two later.

Meanwhile, no one should share towels, children should wear knickers and pants in bed, and children shouldn't scratch the itchy bottom. Hands should be washed the minute they come home, before meals and after using the toilet at school.

It's very annoying that so many children keep catching worms because there are usually one or two families in a class who don't know their child has them, or doesn't treat them. At one stage, my daughter had worms several times a year - and I began to consider buying shares in Ovex.


Nits and worms may be hard to spot but not impetigo. This highly infectious skin disease looks like red blisters which can ooze pus, and occur anywhere on the body - often the face.

It can clear up on its own after two to three weeks, but during this time it is highly infectious.

If you think your child could have it, see your GP.

Treatment is with antibiotic creams and sometimes oral antibiotics in severe cases.

You should keep your child away from nursery or school if they have it, for at least 48 hours after starting treatment. In the meantime, don't share towels, face cloths, clothes, and wash fluffy toys.

It's a fortunate family which doesn't have to cope with any one of these; but spotting these infections and treating them carefully will help stop them being passed on to other children.

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