How to combat school-related illnesses

Posted on 16 January 2020

Back to school means back to health risks: lice, ringworm and meningitis are all common conditions many kids bring home from their first week back. Here’s how to avoid these school-related illnesses.



The head louse is a wingless insect, about the size of a sesame seed, that spends its entire life cycle on the human scalp and feeds exclusively on human blood.

Lice are spread between children through close personal contact.

Does your child have lice?

Look out for signs of

  • Persistent itching
  • Tiny but visible lice on the scalp, body, clothing or hair
  • Lice eggs in the hair
  • Small red bumps on the scalp, neck and shoulders

Time to see a doctor?

Certain specifically formulated shampoos are effective at killing lice.

But see your doctor if

  • Anti-lice shampoo doesn’t kill the lice
  • You are pregnant
  • Scratching has caused abrasions or infections on the skin surface



Ringworm, otherwise known as tinea, is a highly contagious fungal infection of the skin or scalp. Its name refers to its appearance, and there is no worm involved in this condition – instead, it is caused by a fungus that lives on the dead tissues of skin, hair and nails.

Ringworm spreads by direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.

Does your child have ringworm?

Look out for signs of

  • A scaly ring-shaped area on the bum, abdomen, arms or legs
  • A round, flat patch of itchy skin
  • A clear or scaly area inside the ring, perhaps with a scattering of red bumps
  • Slightly raised, overlapping rings
  • Persistent itching

Time to see a doctor?

Ringworm can be cured by using a prescription anti-fungal cream. If this remedy is not effective, speak to your general practitioner.



Meningitis occurs when the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord becomes infected. Some forms of meningitis are contagious and are transmitted by coughing, sneezing or close personal contact.

There are different forms of meningitis, but they develop in similar ways – bacteria, fungi, viruses or parasites enter the bloodstream and infect the brain or spinal cord.

Children aged two or older should be vaccinated against the disease.

Does your child have meningitis?

Look out for signs of

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Fever and chills
  • Stiff neck
  • Purple patches of skin that look like bruises
  • Fatigue and lethargy

Time to see a doctor?

Meningitis requires immediate professional medical care.

Fungal meningitis can be treated with antifungal medication.

Bacterial meningitis requires a course of intravenous antibiotics in a hospital setting.



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.