Back to School Advice

With children going back to school after the summer holidays, there are 101 things to sort out. But, we can help you with advice on those common health niggles your youngster might encounter when they’re back in the classroom.   

Head lice and nits

Head lice can make your head feel itchy and like something is moving in your hair, the only way to be sure someone has head lice is by finding live lice. You can do this by combing their hair with a special fine-toothed comb (detection comb). You can buy these online or at pharmacies.

Lice and nits can be removed by wet combing. You should try this method first. There may be instructions with the detection comb, but usually you: wash hair with ordinary shampoo, apply lots of conditioner (any conditioner will do) and comb the whole head of hair, from the roots to the ends. Do wet combing on days 1, 5, 9 and 13 to catch any newly hatched head lice. Check again that everyone's hair is free of lice on day 17.

Ask a pharmacist for advice if you have tried wet combing for 17 days, but your child still has live head lice. They may recommend using medicated lotions and sprays. Some treatments need to be repeated after a week to kill any newly hatched lice. Check the pack to see if they're OK for you or your child and how to use them. If lotions or sprays do not work, speak to a pharmacist about other treatments.

There's nothing you can do to prevent head lice. You can help stop them spreading by wet or dry combing regularly to catch them early. There's no need for children to stay off school or to wash laundry on a hot wash.

Click here for advice on the NHS Health A-Z website, Head lice and nits. 

Threadworms

Threadworms (pinworms) are tiny worms in your poo. They're common in children and spread easily. They look like pieces of white thread in your poo and you might also see them around your child's bottom (anus). The worms usually come out at night while your child is sleeping. They can cause extreme itching around the anus or vagina and irritability and waking up during the night.

You can buy medicine for threadworms from pharmacies. This is usually a chewable tablet or liquid you swallow. Treat everyone in your household, even if they do not have symptoms. Medicine kills the threadworms, but it does not kill the eggs. Eggs can live for up to two weeks outside the body. Children can get worms again after they've been treated for them if they get the eggs in their mouth. This is why it's important to encourage children to wash their hands regularly.

To help stop re-infection encourage children to wash hands regularly and scrub under fingernails – particularly before eating and after using the toilet, bathe or shower every morning and make sure children wear underwear at night – change it in the morning.

Do not shake clothing or bedding, share towels or flannels, and do not bite nails or suck thumbs and fingers.

You do not need to stay off school, nursery or work with threadworms.

Please click here for advice on the NHS Health A-Z website, Threadworms.

Acute sore throat

Sore throats are very common and usually nothing to worry about. They normally get better by themselves within a week. Symptoms can include a painful throat, especially when swallowing, a dry, scratchy throat, redness in the back of the mouth, bad breath, a mild cough, swollen neck glands. The symptoms are similar for children, but children can also get a temperature and appear less active.

To help soothe a sore throat and shorten how long it lasts, you can: drink plenty of water, eat cool or soft foods, suck ice cubes, ice lollies or hard sweets – but do not give young children anything small and hard to suck because of the risk of choking.

To help relieve the pain and discomfort of a sore throat, you can buy paracetamol or ibuprofen from a supermarket or from a pharmacist without a prescription. You can also use medicated lozenges or anaesthetic sprays (although there's little proof they help), again purchased from a supermarket or a pharmacy.

See your GP if your sore throat does not improve after a week, you often get sore throats, you're worried about your sore throat, you have a sore throat and a very high temperature, or you feel hot and shivery or you have a weakened immune system – for example, because of diabetes or chemotherapy.

Call 999 if you have difficulty swallowing or breathing, you're drooling, you're making a high-pitched sound as you breathe (called stridor) or your symptoms are severe and getting worse quickly.

These symptoms can make breathing more difficult.

Please click here for advice on the NHS Health A-Z website, Sore Throat.

Mild acne

Acne is a common skin condition that affects most people at some point. It causes spots, oily skin and sometimes skin that's hot or painful to touch.

These self-help techniques may be useful:

  • Do not wash affected areas of skin more than twice a day. Frequent washing can irritate the skin and make symptoms worse.
  • Wash the affected area with a mild soap or cleanser and lukewarm water. Very hot or cold water can make acne worse.
  • Do not try to "clean out" blackheads or squeeze spots. This can make them worse and cause permanent scarring.
  • Avoid using too much make-up and cosmetics.
  • Completely remove make-up before going to bed.
  • If dry skin is a problem, use a fragrance-free, water-based emollient.
  • Wash your hair regularly and try to avoid letting your hair fall across your face.

A pharmacist should be able to advise you on how to treat mild acne successfully with over-the-counter gels or creams (topical treatments) that contain benzoyl peroxide.

Benzoyl peroxide works as an antiseptic to reduce the number of bacteria on the surface of the skin. It also helps to reduce the number of whiteheads and blackheads, and has an anti-inflammatory effect. It's used either once or twice a day and is available as a cream or gel.

It should be applied sparingly 20 minutes after washing to all of the parts of your face affected by acne. It makes your face more sensitive to sunlight, so avoid too much sun and sources of ultraviolet (UV) light (such as sunbeds), or wear sun cream.

Benzoyl peroxide can have a bleaching effect, so avoid getting it on your hair or clothes.

Common side effects of benzoyl peroxide include: dry and tense skin, a burning, itching or stinging sensation, some redness and peeling of the skin.

Side effects are usually mild and should pass once the treatment has finished.

Most people need a six-week course of treatment to clear most or all of their acne.

You may be advised to continue treatment less frequently to prevent acne returning.

For more information on the NHS Health A-Z website, Acne, click here

Warts and verrucas

Warts do not cause you any harm but some people find them itchy, painful or embarrassing. Verrucas are more likely to be painful – like standing on a needle.

You can buy creams, plasters and sprays from pharmacies to get rid of warts and verrucas. These treatments can take up to three months to complete, may irritate your skin and do not always work. You should not use these treatments on your face. Your pharmacist can give you advice about the best treatment for you.

See a GP if:

  • you're worried about a growth on your skin
  • you have a wart or verruca that keeps coming back
  • you have a very large or painful wart or verruca
  • a wart bleeds or changes in how it looks
  • you have a wart on your face or genitals

Warts and verrucas are caused by a virus. They can be spread to other people from contaminated surfaces or through close skin contact. You're more likely to spread a wart or verruca if your skin is wet or damaged.

To stop warts and verrucas spreading;

DO

  • wash your hands after touching a wart or verruca
  • change your socks daily if you have a verruca
  • cover warts and verrucas with a plaster when swimming
  • take care not to cut a wart when shaving

DON’T

  • do not share towels, flannels, socks or shoes if you have a wart or verruca
  • do not bite your nails or suck fingers with warts on
  • do not walk barefoot in public places if you have a verruca
  • do not scratch or pick a wart

For more information on warts and verrucas visit the NHS Health A-Z website.