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Classroom Cooties: Top Sicknesses and Stats from Katy School Nurses


By Jennifer Miko

Every year, parents enthusiastically send their children off to school to learn in a classroom, make new friends and play during recess. Sounds perfect. Until the first cough, sniffle, or late-night fever spikes. Now school has become ground zero for childhood cooties.

Katy ISD’s Director of Health Services, Therese D. Highnote, RN, BSN has treated a lot of school-day sicknesses during her 21 years in the district. She worked at Hayes Elementary, Memorial Parkway Junior High, Seven Lakes High School and WoodCreek Junior High.

Highnote said the most common ailments or complaints this time of year include: Headache, stomachache, nausea, vomiting, heat-related issues, allergies, bacterial/viral illnesses, ear pain and sore throat.

Katy Magazine asked Highnote to put elementary school ailments into perspective.

Last year, there were 177 school days and approximately 35 weeks of school. Highnote reports that the nurses in the 42 elementary campuses were very busy.


Top Classroom Cooties

Ear Infections

What to watch for: ear pain and fever

Ear infections commonly occur when fluid behind the eardrum, or in the middle ear, becomes trapped due to inflammation and becomes infected. The inflammation can be caused by colds, sinus or throat infections, and even allergy attacks.

Strep (streptococcus)

What to watch for: sore throat, headache, stomachache, vomiting, fever, chills

The strep throat is powered by contagious bacteria that can sweep through a classroom quickly. Remind children not so share food and drinks, even writing utensils, and wash

their hands!

A trip to the doctor will determine the best course of antibiotic treatment.


What to watch for: sudden vomiting and diarrhea

This highly contagious virus spreads in close environments, like classrooms. Symptoms can last one to three days, and most people recover without treatment. To avoid the nasty norovirus ailments, keep hands washed and avoid contact with someone who is infected.


Counteracting the Cooties

Instructional time is very important, however, it's important to recognize the signs your child should be kept home to avoid worsening their illness or infecting others. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medical School reports that elementary school children, on average, get six to eight colds each school year. Basic precautions and good habits can help your child avoid the common cooties in the classroom:

Wash Hands

The CDC recommend parents teach their children proper hand-washing practices with soap and warm water. They suggest kids wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. Parents should encourage their children to sing a song like “Happy Birthday” or “Twinkle, Twinkle” to give them a perspective of how long they should be washing.

Don’t Touch!

The phrase “Keep your hands to yourself” can help prevent the spread of germs. Teach children to avoid touching other who are sick, or if they’re sick. They should be reminded not to touch their eyes, mouth and nose to prevent further contamination.

Get to Sleep

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that school-age children get 9-12 hours of sleep per night. High schoolers need 8-10 hours of sleep per night. The organization reminds parents that sleep deprivation lowers the body’s immune system and its ability to fight off infection.

Cover Up!

Coughs and sneezes happen. Instruct your child to cough or sneeze (if a tissue isn’t available) into their folded arm to keep germs from spreading through the air.

Don’t Share

Remind children not to share food and drinks, lip balms, writing utensils, etc.


Monitoring Illnesses at School

Katy ISD has established important guidelines to reduce the spread of communicable diseases on campus. Students who demonstrate signs and soymptoms of illness or a possible communicable disease should be referred to the school clinic for further assessment. Students with an elevated temperature of 100 degrees or above, or those who vomit or have diarrhea, must be isolated and sent home.

24-Hour Rule

At home, parents must do their part to keep students from spreading illnesses, and Katy ISD has established guidelines for students returning to school after being sick.

  • Students must be fever free without fever-reducing medication for 24 hours before he/she can be allowed back in school.

  • Students dimissed due to vomiting or diarrhea must also be free of symptoms without the use of preventative medications before being allowed back in school.

Katy ISD hosts a Health Services web page that enhances the district's parent and community outreach. Follow the link for important information on hand washing, flu prevention, covering coughs and the awareness of universal precautions.


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