Back-to-school Sickness: Lice, Pink Eye and Other Illnesses to Watch Out For

The start of the school year is quickly approaching, which means close quarters and lots of germs for kids. Here are some of the illnesses that will be spreading this year, including new dangers and some classics making a reappearance.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease
Hand, foot and mouth disease is an infection that can be caused by numerous viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It results in sores inside the mouth, as well as a rash on the feet and hands. While the infection is usually harmless and goes away after seven to ten days, it can result in viral meningitis, polio-like paralysis or brain inflammation. While the disease typically occurs in children under the age of five, people of all ages can contract it.

Doctors in Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana, and South Carolina are currently reporting outbreaks, according to multiple sources—including CBS News. Some Major League Baseball players have even called out sick because of the disease in recent weeks.

Parents should look out for sore throats, fevers, reduced appetites and feelings of being unwell in their children, as well as a rash of flat red spots on their palms, soles of their feet, elbows and buttocks. The best way to avoid the disease is simple: frequently washing your hands.

The disease that seems to affect generations of classroom students is still something to look out for come the first day of school. According to the Mayo Clinic, lice, the sesame-seed-sized tiny, wingless, parasites that thrive in hair, can be easily spread when children share their belongings, sit on contaminated furniture or are just close to each other.

Symptoms include itching, a tickling feeling and small red bumps on the neck, scalp, and shoulders. The pesky creatures only require a visit to the doctor when they don't go away with nonprescription anti-lice shampoo, if they develop infected hives or skin abrasions, or, in adult cases, if the infected person is pregnant.

Children Playing
Children play during recess at B.K. Bruce Elementary School in Houston, Texas. As children return to school, they can be exposed to infectious diseases. CHRIS ALUKA BERRY/REUTERS

Pink Eye
Pink eye, or bacterial conjunctivitis, is easily spread in schools. It's contagious and someone can contract the disease just by touching an infected object, such as a desk, or sharing belongings. Pink eye can stay contagious for two weeks. A child could develop pink eye at the same time they have a cold or other symptoms, like a sore throat.

The symptoms include red eyes, itchy and gritty eyes and a discharge in one or both eyes that forms a crust. The infection can be treated easily and after starting treatment, the Mayo Clinic says kids only need to wait 24 hours to return to school after starting treatment. Making sure to keep hands clean, frequently switching out towels and avoiding touching the eye can help curb the spread of pink eye.

There are many infections that can occur when children go back to school, but keeping an eye out for these three could help catch an infection before it gets worse.