4 common health problems in school kids

Posted on 13 March 2017

It’s a lot of fun being young and free to run around and play with friends, not to mention good for the body and the mind. But with sports, rough play and shared locker rooms comes the risk of some common ailments. We detail four types of ailments or symptoms that are often found in active school kids.

1) Fractures and Breaks

If a child suffers a broken bone – and depending on the position and severity of the break – they’re likely to have what doctors call ‘conservative management’ which means a non-surgical procedure.

The reason is fairly simple, says Dr Richard Finn, an orthopaedic surgeon at Mediclinic Worcester. ‘Children have a higher potential for bone regrowth and remodelling,’ he explains. Adult bones are less flexible thanchildren’ss bones and the growth plates are not soft any more.  Therefore, adult bones break (fracture) or shatter, while children’s bones tend to break through a soft growth plate, or bend (greenstick fracture).

These fractures can still cause a great deal of discomfort. If you think your child may have a broken bone take them to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible.

Read more here.

2) Head Injuries

Concussion is the most common type of brain injury, and occurs when sudden jars to the head cause the brain – which is floating in cerebrospinal fluid – to jolt or make contact with the inner skull. This distorts the axions in the impact zone and sometimes in indirectly injured areas too, and the cells in the affected area undergo several distress-related metabolic and chemical changes that disturb signal transmission across brain cells.

‘All physical activities have a degree of risk associated with them,’ says Dr Jon Patricios, a leading expert in the field of concussion. ‘Kids use roller skates, skateboards and bicycles – all of which pose some risk. But the benefits of physical activity – physical, cognitive and social – far outweigh the risks.’

Dr Patricios points out that making sure that kids are well conditioned, have good technique (especially in contact situations) and play by the rules, go a long way in reducing the risks of concussion. He adds that all schools and clubs should have a concussion protocol and network for the management of head injuries. Other risks associated with injuries to the head include an injured eye or broken nose, both of which should be seen to by your family doctor or local emergency doctor if there isn’t a doctor or paramedic available on the school premises.

Read more here.

3) Skin Infections

Some common skin infections passed around at school include impetigo, plantar warts and ringworm, as well as athlete’s foot.


Impetigo is the most common bacterial skin infection in schools, and is characterised by red sores that break open and then crust over. Caused by either the streptococcus or staphylococcus bacteria, impetigo is also highly contagious. It’s more common among children who already suffer from skin irritations – for example eczema, skin allergies or even a nose rubbed raw after a cold – as this makes the skin vulnerable to infection.


Is your child complaining that they feel as if they have a permanent stone in their shoe? He might be suffering from the indignity of a plantar wart. Named because they form on the plantar surface (soles) of your feet, these warts are particularly common in children, people with weakened immune systems and the elderly. Also known as verrucas, they are benign – and are caused by particular strains the human papilloma virus (HPV) that invades the skin through tiny cuts and scrapes.

‘Like other viral infections, plantar warts are contagious and are commonly spread in moist, humid areas like public swimming pools and communal showers,’ says Dr Muhammed-Ameen Moosa, a dermatologist at Mediclinic Limpopo. ‘Children are particularly susceptible because they are likely to have more cuts and scrapes than most adults.’


Similar to the common locker-room condition, athlete’s foot, ringworm is actually a fungus not a parasite or worm.  The ring either has a normal skin tone in the centre or it displays a red centre. Ringworm is itchy and quite uncomfortable.

A GP will usually be able to spot ringworm at a glance, or gently scrape off a skin sample for testing, and prescribe an antifungal medication.

Keep it clean: Good hygiene and skincare, as well as keeping your kid’s immunity up with good food and clean water, can prevent or limit many of these infections.

4) Bee Stings

The biggest risk associated with bee stings is that the small amount of venom they release may trigger an allergic reaction and lead to anaphylaxis, a severe life threatening allergic reaction.

Anaphylaxis occurs when your body develops a severe allergic reaction to something, such as food, medication or stings. To distinguish bee stings from stings or bites from wasps and spiders, read our comprehensive guide here.

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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