New Term Germs: Avoid These 5 Back-to-School ‘Bugs’

September 12, 2019

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Glenn A. Salcedo, M.D. contributes to topics such as Pediatrics.

By Brianna McCabe

Parents, does the chaos of reacclimating your children into the back-to-school morning routine leave your house looking exactly like the jungle wildlife scene from the 1995 Jumanji movie?

Well, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration—but I can only imagine some kids angrily stampeding through their hallways similar to the herd of various animals a few dice rolls earlier as parents shout, “Get up! Get ready! Get dressed!”

Then, a few moments later, comes the roll call of school supplies:

  • Backpack? Check!
  • Lunchbox? Check!
  • Folders? Check!
  • Notebook? Check!
  • Pencils? Check!

“One of the most important items that any parent can stress to their kids to bring—though often overlooked—is hand sanitizer,” shares Glenn Salcedo, M.D., a board certified pediatrician.

So yes, that is one more thing to add to the morning madness.

“There are a lot of kids and germs in an enclosed place and there are several hygienic factors that you cannot control,” explains Dr. Salcedo. “It is one tool that can be used to fight against inviting any common ‘bugs’ back into your homes.”

Stomach bug.

The stomach bug, also referred to as viral gastroenteritis, is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by a viral infection.

Marked by symptoms of severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain, infants and young children are highly susceptible. “This is mostly due in part to improper handwashing, improper waste disposal, environmental contamination and eating contaminated food,” says Dr. Salcedo.

Depending on the cause, the stomach bug may appear within one to three days after infection and can last as long as 10 days.

“The best prevention is handwashing, disinfectants, sanitizers, proper waste disposal, drinking clean water and eating proper food,” advises Dr. Salcedo.


The flu is a contagious respiratory disease caused by influenza A or B viruses that attack the body by spreading through the upper and/or lower respiratory tract. Since 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9.2 and 35.6 million illnesses in the United States.

“Any type of contact may then spread the flu,” Dr. Salcedo says. “Transmission is usually by large particle droplets, like coughing or sneezing. Therefore, the best prevention against the spread of the flu is to get your annual shot between the months of October and December.”

Otherwise, Dr. Salcedo warns that you risk contracting the virus and experiencing chills, body aches, extreme fatigue, fever and cough fits.

Strep throat.

Strep throat is a contagious bacterial infection spread usually from throat secretions when someone with the infection has close oral contact or shares foods and drinks. Individuals with strep throat tend to have a sore throat, pain when swallowing, fever, swollen tonsils and/or swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck.

A quick swabbing of the throat will test if you have strep throat—and if so, antibiotics will be prescribed to fight the infection.

“Strep throat is more common in children ages 5 through 15, but parents can definitely be at risk especially if they are often in contact with other children,” warns Dr. Salcedo. “Good hygiene can be your best prevention against this infection.”

Pink eye.

Pink eye, medically known as conjunctivitis, is typically caused by viruses, bacteria or allergens. Viral and bacterial pink eye can spread easily through close personal contact or touching an object with germs on it and immediately touching your eyes.

Symptoms of pink eye include:

  • Pink or red in the white of the eye(s)
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Increased tear production
  • Itching, irritation or burning
  • Crusting of the lids
  • Discharge

“Aside from basic hygiene, try to avoid touching or rubbing your eyes and regularly washing any pillowcases and sheets,” says Dr. Salcedo.

Head lice.

Head lice are tiny, wingless insects that feed on human blood and are found almost exclusively on the scalp. According to the CDC, an estimated 6 million to 12 million head lice infestations occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years of age.

“Typically, people will feel this tickle like something is moving in the hair or have itching from bites,” shares Dr. Salcedo. “Sometimes you can see sores on the head, too.”

Head lice are spread through head-to-head contact, such as playing sports or hanging out on the playground. “It can also spread through the sharing of hats, coats, scarves, brushes or hair accessories,” says Dr. Salcedo.

Both prescription and over-the-counter medications can be used to treat head lice, notes Dr. Salcedo.

“The best prevention is avoiding anyone known to have head lice and practicing good hygiene, such as regularly washing clothes and sheets and cleaning the house.”

Dr. Salcedo is located at a pediatric office in Lakewood. Call 732-363-1424 to schedule an appointment.

Dr. Salcedo is a physician at Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group, a network of more than 1,000 physicians and advanced providers at over 300 practices throughout New Jersey. Our care network can help you better manage your health. Visit to find a practice near you.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

CDC: Head Lice