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Don't get ill when your kids do.. Busy mums can't afford to get sick. So how can you avoid the colds and other bugs your child is almost certain to pick up as they head back to school?

Byline: Tanith Carey

Head lice

What are they?

Tiny parasites living in hair and feeding on blood from the scalp.

How contagious are they?

Lice are most common in three to 11-year-olds and spread when a pregnant female bug piggybacks from one head to another. They can also be transmitted via pillows, towels, hats and brushes.

How to stop yourself catching them:

They usually take hold when you don't spot the symptoms quickly enough. Comb your own wet hair with a nit comb daily. Don't let your family share brushes or hair accessories and soak in rubbing alcohol.

Strep throat

What is it?

Viruses or a bacterium called Streptococcus pyogenes are the most likely cause. Symptoms include a hightemperature, runny nose, headache, swollen lymph nodes - even bad breath.

How contagious is it?

Dr David Atherton, expert on the Pampers Village Parenting Panel, says: "About one in ten healthy people carry Streptococcus pyogenes in their throats without any symptoms, and these people are the source of infections in the rest of us."

How to stop yourself catching it:

It's tough to prevent, but tell kids to sneeze into their shoulders, instead of hands. Throw away used tissues immediately and wash your hands after blowing your child's nose.

Conjunctivitis

What is it?

In younger kids, it's likely to be cause by a virus. If a bacteria is responsible, the infection lasts longer and there's more likely to be sticky discharge.

How contagious is it?

Mums are most at risk when they wipe kids' infected eyes and then touch their own. However Dr Atherton says the most risk comes if you have damage to your own eye surface.

How to stop yourself catching it:

According to Dr Jennifer Wider, author of The New Mom's Survival Guide, don't share flannels, cutlery or even remote controls.

"Lying on a pillow of an infected person transmits pinkeye, so take precautions."

Croup

What is it?

A respiratory infection caused by a virus that hits kids mainly under six - and is usually worse at night.

Dr Atherton says: "It starts like an ordinary cold, but in a day or two the child develops a hoarse voice, shortness of breath and a wheezy sound when breathing in, plus a strange cough like a fox's bark."

How contagious is it?

Croup is worse in kids as their airways are narrower, which can lead to problems swallowing or breathing. When adults get croup, it usually feels no worse than a bad cold.

How to stop yourself catching it:

Even if you are tending to a distressed child in the night, don't just crawl back into bed. Instead make sure you wash your hands.

Also throw away tissues you use to blow your child's nose or wipe away any spit if they are having difficulty swallowing. Instead of kissing your child on the face, kiss the top of their heads.

Impetigo

What is it?

The first sign that your child has impetigo is usually a red sore around the nose, like a scab. Next it may leak clear fluid - and more sores may develop around the mouth.

How contagious is it?

Impetigo is sparked by bacteria which live on the skin. When the skin is cut, they get in and start an infection.

Dr Atherton says: "These bacteria usually take up residence in the noses of infected children, and this can make the nose itchy. The result is that they get bacteria on their fingers as a result of picking their noses.

"How to stop yourself catching it:

Don't let your child pick their nose - and don't pick your own either!

Remember that bacteria can't cause impetigo unless they get into your skin so be extra careful if you have spots, cuts or eczema on your face - and look after chapped skin.

Dr Wider also advises giving kids their own disposable paper towels while they are infected, instead of sharing them with the rest of the family.

Worms

What are they?

Adult threadworms are about 1cm long and look like bits of cotton. Dr Atherton says: "They live in the large intestine but you only know about them when pregnant females lay eggs on the anal skin at night."

How contagious are they?

"The child scratches and the fingers become covered with eggs," says Dr Atherton. The child will pass these eggs on to others and swallowing these eggs leads to a new infestation."

How to stop yourself catching them:

The moment your child has an itchy bottom, be vigilant. Look in the morning when the worms are easy to spot and check your child's poo for signs.

Swine flu

What is it?

A new type of virus, originally from pigs, which has spread quickly as most people don't have immunity. The symptoms are similar to ordinary flu.

How contagious is it?

The Health Protection Agency says swine flu is "highly contagious". It lives on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours and soft surfaces for around 20 minutes, so mums can catch it by handling things their children have touched. You can also get it by breathing in airborne droplets after your child coughs or sneezes.

How to stop yourself catching it:

Disinfect germ hot spots like door handles and don't share utensils. Wash hands regularly in warm water or use hand sanitizer. Keep your immune system strong with plenty of sleep and vitamin-rich foods.

Steer clear of kids while they are coughing and sneezing as airborne droplets can spread for about one metre. Remind sick children to cover their mouths or turn their facesinto their shoulders when they cough or sneeze - and get them to throw used tissues in the bin. Don't touch your own face so the virus can't enter your system by your mouth, eyes or nose.

!! DR DAVID ATHERTON IS A SKIN EXPERT ON THE PAMPERS VILLAGE PARENTING PANEL, A GROUP OF EXPERTS FROM ALL AREAS OF PREGNANCY, BIRTH AND BEYOND. THE NEW MOM'S SURVIVAL GUIDE BY DR JENNIFER WIDER, AVAILABLE ON AMAZON, PRICE pounds 10.80.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 27, 2009
Words:1000
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