Avoid Cooties and Colds to Keep Your Child Healthy

By Allen Haynes
Little girl getting a bandage on her arm after vaccine

Cooties have been running wild in schools for years, and they tend to lie mysteriously dormant until recess, when girls chase boys around the playground and vice versa. It is nearly impossible for children to avoid catching this imagined disease. I myself contracted it three times before learning about the cootie shot. If you are unaware of the cootie shot, it’s a brilliant remedy where one child uses her index finger to trace circles and dots on another’s arm, all while proclaiming “Circle, circle. Dot, dot. Now you’ve got the cootie shot.”

If your child is unable to find a vaccinated friend to administer the shot, she can simply pass the cooties to another unsuspecting jungle-gym patron by touching him on the arm, shoulder, back or hand. Of course getting cooties from the opposite sex is twice as bad as getting them from the same sex, and may require an additional shot.

Help your child avoid cooties and colds this flu season.

So, where did cooties come from?

The word “cootie” comes from the Malay word “kutu,” meaning “lice.”

According to Newsvine, Inc., a division of Msnbc Digital Network, the first recorded use of the word cootie was in World War One by American sailor Gunner Depew. He used cooties as an all-encompassing word in a letter referring to the different bugs and lice he encountered in the trenches of battle.

No one is quite sure when cooties started taking over school playgrounds, but we can all sleep easier knowing the cootie shot antidote is readily available for all who need it.

Other than cooties, what illnesses should I look out for this school year?

While your child should avoid cooties and colds, there are more illnesses to protect your child from. According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, the most common illnesses for school-aged children are upper respiratory infections like colds and the flu.

About 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized every year because of flu-related symptoms, according to The Center for Disease Control (CDC).

In fact, Influenza causes more hospitalizations among children under 5 than any other vaccine-preventable disease, which is why the CDC recommends yearly flu vaccinations for everyone 6 months and older.

Although they are not as common as colds or the flu, head lice, ringworm, hand-foot-mouth disease, fifth disease and pink eye are highly contagious visitors to children during the school year.

Lice and ringworm

If your child is scratching his head frequently or thinks his hair is crawling, it’s possible he could have head lice. The CDC recommends treating lice with either a prescription or over-the-counter medicated shampoo kit.

Ringworm, on the other hand, is a fungus-caused skin infection that can affect several parts of the body including the scalp, arms, feet and even nails. A physician should be consulted for treatment options.

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD), like ring- worm, causes rashes on the body. It usually takes 3-7 days between infection and the onset of symptoms. HFMD usually begins with a fever, lack of appetite and a vague unwell feeling. Sores typically develop in the mouth one or two days after the fever onset. Children may also develop a rash and small blisters on the palms of the hand, bottom of the feet and diaper area. There is no specific treatment for HFMD, but the CDC recommends drinking plenty of fluids. HFMD typically lasts about seven days. If your child doesn’t improve over the week, consult your physician.

Fifth disease

Sometimes called, “slapped-cheek” disease due to the red rashes that form on the face, fifth disease is a mild rash that affects the face, torso and limbs. Fifth disease is tricky, because it is only contagious during the stage before the rash is visible. By the time the rash appears, your child is probably no longer contagious and can return to school. Fifth disease is usually not very serious and resolves itself in about a week.

Pink eye

If your child’s eye is red, itchy and producing a watery discharge that can’t be cleared up with over-the-counter eye drops, she probably has pink eye. In some cases pink eye has caused cornea damage, so if you think your child has pink eye, consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment.

If your child catches any of these illnesses during the school year, it’s best to keep him home until he is no longer contagious, and help them avoid cooties and colds in the future.

Always consult your physician for a proper diagnosis, medical advice and treatment.

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