Kids are exposed to more germs at the start of the school year. While back to school illnesses and infections are inevitable, you can always help prevent sickness by encouraging your kids to wash their hands regularly. If your child happens to catch something at school, we always recommend you visit us at any of our locations along Denver’s metro area so we can help them start feeling better faster!

Here are six common illnesses and infections we see now that school is in session.

common classroom illnesses

Common Cold

Most people get colds in the winter and spring, but it is possible to get a cold any time of the year. Symptoms usually include:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Body aches

There is no cure for a cold. Most people recover within about 7 to 10 days. Getting lots of rest and drinking plenty of fluids will help you to start feeling better. Over-the-counter medicines may help ease symptoms but will not make your cold go away any faster.

People with weakened immune systems, asthma, or respiratory conditions may develop serious illness, such as bronchitis or pneumonia. You should seek medical advice from a provider if you or your child has one or more of these conditions:

  • Symptoms that last more than 10 days
  • Symptoms that are severe or unusual
  • If your child is younger than 3 months of age and has a fever or is lethargic

You should also seek medical advice right away if you are at high risk for serious flu complications and get flu symptoms such as fever, chills, and muscle or body aches.

Strep Throat

In general, strep throat is a mild infection, but it can be very painful. The most common symptoms of a strep infection include:

  • Sore throat that can start very quickly
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Fever
  • Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
  • Tiny, red spots (petechiae — pronounced pi-TEE-kee-eye) on the roof of the mouth (the soft or hard palate)
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck

Other symptoms may include headache, stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting — especially in children. Someone with strep throat may also have a rash known as scarlet fever.

Only a rapid strep test or throat culture can determine if group A strep is the cause. A medical provider cannot tell if someone has strep throat just by looking at their throat. Strep is treated with antibiotics. Someone who tests positive for strep throat but has no symptoms (called a “carrier”) usually does not need antibiotics.


Infectious mononucleosis, also called “mono,” is a contagious disease. Sometimes called the “kissing disease,” it is common among teenagers and young adults, especially college students.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the most common cause of the infection. At least one out of four teenagers and young adults who get infected with EBV will develop infectious mononucleosis. Symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Head and body aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and armpits
  • Enlarged spleen and/or liver
  • Rash

Symptoms may develop slowly and may not all occur at the same time. There is no vaccine to protect against infectious mononucleosis. You can help protect yourself by not kissing or sharing drinks, food, or personal items, like toothbrushes, with people who have infectious mononucleosis. You can help relieve symptoms of infectious mononucleosis by:

  • Drinking fluids to stay hydrated
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Taking over-the-counter medications for pain and fever

If you have mono, you should not take penicillin antibiotics like ampicillin or amoxicillin. Based on the severity of the symptoms, a healthcare provider may recommend treatment of specific organ systems affected by mono.

Head Lice

The head louse is a parasitic insect that can be found on the head, eyebrows, and eyelashes of people. Head lice feed on human blood several times a day and live close to the human scalp. Head lice are not known to spread disease.

Head lice infestations can be asymptomatic, particularly with a first infestation or when an infestation is light. Itching (“pruritus”) is the most common symptom of head lice infestation and is caused by an allergic reaction to louse bites. It may take 4 to 6 weeks for itching to appear the first time a person has head lice. Other symptoms may include:

  • A tickling feeling or a sensation of something moving in the hair
  • Irritability and sleeplessness
  • Sores on the head caused by scratching. These sores can sometimes become infected with bacteria normally found on a person’s skin

Treatment for head lice is recommended for people diagnosed with an active infestation. All household members and other close contacts should be checked and people with evidence of an active infestation should be treated. Treatment requires using an over-the-counter or prescription medication.

Pink Eye

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is one of the most common and treatable eye conditions in the world. It is an inflammation of the thin, clear tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid (conjunctiva) and the white part of the eyeball. This inflammation makes blood vessels more visible and gives the eye a pink or reddish color. Symptoms may vary, but usually include:

  • Pink or red color in the white of the eye(s)
  • Swelling of the conjunctiva (the thin layer that lines the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelid) and/or eyelids
  • Increased tear production
  • Feeling like a foreign body is in the eye(s) or an urge to rub the eye(s)
  • Itching, irritation, and/or burning
  • Discharge (pus or mucus)
  • Crusting of eyelids or lashes, especially in the morning
  • Contact lenses that feel uncomfortable and/or do not stay in place on the eye
  • Depending on the cause, other symptoms may occur

Most cases of viral conjunctivitis are mild. The infection will usually clear up in 7 to 14 days without treatment and without any long-term consequences. In some cases pink eye can take 2 to 3 weeks, or longer, to clear up.

Your provider may prescribe an antibiotic, usually given topically as eye drops or ointment, for bacterial conjunctivitis. Antibiotics may help shorten the length of infection, reduce complications, and reduce the spread to others.


The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. There are two main types of the flu virus: types A and B. The influenza A and B viruses that routinely spread in people (human influenza viruses) are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year. People who are sick with flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)

Flu signs and symptoms usually come on suddenly. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. It’s important to note that not everyone with the flu will have a fever.

Take antivirals drugs, if prescribed by a provider, and be sure to take everyday precautions to protect others while sick including:

  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in the trash after you use it
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or If that’s not possible, use an alcohol-based hand rub
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu
  • Stay home until you are better

If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.

Who To See

Consider visiting Advanced Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine in Colorado if you or your child are unwell. You can schedule a visit or walk-in to any of our clinics. We also offer telehealth visits so you can be seen without leaving the comfort of home.