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Infections in School



On this page you will find information about Chicken Pox; Head Lice; Measles; Mumps; Rubella; Scabies; Scarlet Fever; Slapped Cheek Syndrome; Impetigo.



What is Chickenpox?

Chicken pox is a common childhood illness.  A high temperature and cold symptoms are often the first signs of illness, followed by the appearance of the typical rash.  The rash starts as small pink bumps, around the neck, ears, back and stomach.  The bumps will develop a little water blister, which will turn yellow and oozy and then crusty as I dries.  The rash spreads across the whole body including the lower arms and legs.  Some people will only have a few spots, others could be covered in them.

 Symptoms usually develop 8 to 21 days after exposure.  The infected person can spread infection for up to 3 days before the rash appears and until the last pox is crusted and dry.

 Can my child stay in school?

If your child develops Chickenpox they should not attend school until all the spots have crusted over.  Children with spots that are crusted and dried can safely attend school as they are no longer infectious.


 Head Lice

 What are Head Lice?

They are tiny greyish white insects that live in the hair and feed on the scalp.  The female lays the eggs (the nits) on the hair close to the scalp.  7 to 10 days later the nits hatch and live for 20 to 30 days.  The female can produce 250 to 300 eggs.  The empty nits are white in colour.  They remain firmly glued to the hair and become more obvious as the hair grows.

How could my child get Head Lice?

Anyone can pick up Head Lice.  They are most common among children as they often put heads together during play allowing the lice walk from one head to the next.  Lice can also be passed indirectly by using someone else’s hairbrush, combs or hats.  Head lice do not reflect standards of hygiene in the home or in the school.  They are just as willing to live in clean or dirty hair.

 What should I do if I find lice or nits?

There are a number of effective preparations, shampoos and lotions available at the chemist.  It is important that the instructions are followed carefully.

Your doctor or chemist will be able to answer any further questions you might have about head lice and the lotions and shampoos available.



What is Measles?

Measles is a viral illness that begins with a runny nose, chestiness and high temperature.  After 1 to 2 days a reddish-brown measles rash appears.  It begins around the head and neck and spreads over the rest of the body.  It is a blotchy rash with the reddened areas often joining together so that large areas of skin look red.  The whites of the eyes are usually reddened and irritated and the child is miserable.  Symptoms develop about 8 to 12 days after exposure to an infectious person.  The child with Measles is infectious for 3 to 5 days before and up to 4 days after the rash appears.

 Can my child stay in school?

Most children with Measles are too sick to attend school.  Even if your child does not seem too ill, it is important that they stay at home until at leas 5 days after the rash appears.  This will stop the infection spreading to other children.



 What is Mumps?

Mumps is a viral infection.  Symptoms include high temperature, headache, and swelling of cheek and jaw.  Children are infectious for up to 7 days before the cheek swelling appears and remain infectious for 9 days after symptoms develop.  Symptoms can develop from 12 to 35 days after exposure.

Can my child stay in school?

To prevent spread of Mumps to others, your child must stay at home for 9 days after the symptoms develop.



What is Rubella?

Rubella is a mild viral illness that is not particularly for children.  It causes a mild flu like illness with some swelling of the glands, particularly those at the back of the neck and a fine pinkish red rash.  Adults can also develop painful joints (arthritis).

Can my child stay in school?

Children with Rubella must stay at home until at least 7 days after the appearance of the rash.

Your doctor and local health clinic will be able to answer any further questions that you might have about rubella and the rubella vaccine.



What is scabies?

Scabies is a bumpy rash that is so intensely itchy that the associated scratching can actually break the skin.  The itch is most intense between the fingers, at the wrists, the belt line, the underarms, the belly, the outer aspect of the feet and the buttocks.  Except in young children, the face is not involved.

What causes it?

It is caused by the presence of a tiny mite, Scarcoptes Scabiei.  This mite burrows under the skin to lay approximately 3 eggs per day. The rash is caused by the body's reaction to the mite and the scratching that occurs. 

How could my child get scabies?

Anyone can get Scabies.  The mite passes from person to person through skin contact.   Children playing together are especially likely to pass it from one to the other.  The mites can also survive for about three days off the body.  This means that they can be passed on through infected bedding or clothes.  Scabies can quickly spread among family members.

How will I know if my child has Scabies?

If your child develops and itchy rash bring the child to your doctor.  The doctor may be able to tell just by looking for the typical rash and finding the small thread-like burrows of the mite.  Or they may may examine some skin scales under the microscope to make the diagnosis.

How is it treated?

A variety of scabicidal lotions and creams are available at the chemist.  Application procedures vary depending on the product used.  In general, they are applied at bedtime to the entire skin (excluding the head and face) and rinsed off the following morning.  A second application 4 to 7 days later is recommended.  As spread within households is common, some doctors will elect to treat all family members at the same time even if there are no symptoms.

Should children be excluded from school? 

Parents of children with a suspicious rash should be advised to bring them to their doctor for evaluation, but do not need to be sent home in the middle of a school day.

When can children return to school ?

A child with a definite infection can return to school as soon as they are treated. 

How to stop spread? 


  • If a suspicious rash is noted on a child bring it to the parents' attention and advise them to consult their doctor.

  • Notify parents if there is a case in the classroom so that they can check their children.

  • All children and bedding which has been used by the infected person in the 72 hours prior to treatment should be washed in the HOT cycle of the washing machine.

  • Items which cannot be readily washed (pillows, stuffed toys) should be stored in tightly closed plastic bags for four days before using again (when off the body the life cycle of the mite is less than four days, thus items stored in this way will be free of mites when taken out for use). 


Your doctor or chemist will be ale to answer any further questions that you might have concerning scabies and the preparations available to treat it. 

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 Scarlet Fever

 What is Scarlet Fever?

Scarlet Fever is a scattered red rash and high temperature caused by the group A streptococcus bacteria.  Occasionally these bacteria can cause kidney or heart complications.  Prompt treatment with an antibiotic usually prevents these complications.  Treatment will also prevent spread to others.

What are the symptoms of Scarlet Fever?

A scattered red rash that is often most marked in the creases of the joints and over the stomach.  It usually blanches (goes white) when pressed on.  The skin may feel rough to the touch, sometimes described as feeling like sandpaper. 

Someone with Scarlet Fever will have evidence of a Streptococcus infection

somewhere, usually in the throat or sometimes on the skin.

What should I do if I think my child has it?

If your child develops any of these symptoms bring him/her to your doctor for examination.  Tell the doctor that another child in school has Scarlet Fever.

If my child has Scarlet Fever what should I do?

The doctor will prescribe an antibiotic for your child.  It is important that the child takes the full course of medicine.  The child can return to school when they have finished 1 full day of the antibiotic.  This will prevent the spread of infection to others.


 Slapped Cheek Syndrome

What is it?

It is an infectious disease caused by a virus known as Parvovirus P19.

How do you get it?

From close contact with someone who is already infected, usually by breathing it in.  The virus may also be spread in the blood or urine of an infected person.  In this case it has to enter the body through a cut or sore.  Transmission of infection by this route is much less common than by breathing it in.  Mother to foetus transmission is also possible.  The infection is not caught from animals nor from inanimate objects like towels or food.  The incubation period is variable but may be between 4 and 20 days.

How common is it?

Infection is most common in children 6-10 years of age.  Maybe half of the adult population will have been infected  some time in their lives.  One attack is thought to confer lifelong immunity.  

How long do you know if someone has got it?

The most common sign in children is a read rash on the cheeks giving the appearance that the child has been slapped.  There is usually a rash with lace-like appearance on the body, often across the tops of the shoulders.  The rash tends to deepen in colour with time.  More often than not the child is quite well and wants to play.  Sometimes there is a bit of a fever (high temperature) and various joints might ache (more likely with adults).  This can last for a couple of weeks but does get better.  A blood test can be performed to determine infection.

How long is someone infectious?

People are most infectious in the few days before any symptoms show.  Once the rash appears, it can then last for a couple of weeks, the risk of passing on the infections drops dramatically.

How do you avoid spreading it?

This is almost impossible because people are infectious before showing any symptoms.  Children only need to be off school if they are actually ill.

Can it cause serious problems?

The disease is generally benign but in some groups, complications can occur.  Infection in pregnant women can rarely cause complications for the baby.  Pregnant women who are in contact with this infection should seek individual medical advice.  The rash may also need to be differentiated  from rubella or scarlet fever.  Women who have previously had the infection are generally immune. Infection in people with underlying  anaemias and immunosuppression may be more serious. 



What is it?

Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the surface layers of the skin, which causes sores and blisters.

Impetigo is not usually a serious condition. However, you should take precautions to avoid spreading it to other people, particularly newborn babies. For example, carefully wash your hands after touching affected areas of skin, and do not share towels or bed linen. See Impetigo - prevention for more information.

Treating impetigo

Antibiotic creams are usually recommended to treat the impetigo infection and minimise the risk of it spreading (see Impetigo - treatment).

Most people are no longer contagious after 48 hours of treatment, or once their sores have dried and healed.

As impetigo is a self-limiting condition (it gets better on its own), complications tend to be rare. However, sometimes the infection can spread to the lymph nodes (lymphadenitis), or to a deeper layer of skin (cellulitis). See Impetigo - complications for more information.

Types of impetigo

There are two types of impetigo:

  • bullous impetigo - which causes large, painless, fluid-filled blisters

  • non-bullous impetigo - which is more contagious than bullous impetigo and causes sores that quickly rupture (burst) to leave a yellow-brown crust

Impetigo can also be classed as:

  • primary - where bacteria enters skin that is otherwise healthy - for example, through a cut or wound, or

  • secondary - where the infection is the result of another underlying cause, such as atopic eczema (a common skin condition).

How common is impetigo?

Non-bullous impetigo is the most common type of impetigo, accounting for more than 70% of cases.

Impetigo most commonly affects children. This is due to environments, such as schools and nurseries, where the infection can easily be spread.

Around 3% of children up to four years old, and 2% of children who are between five to 14 years old get impetigo each year.

Impetigo can sometimes affect adults, for example, when people are living in a confined environment, such as an army barracks.


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