Fort Worth, Texas,
10:58 AM

New strep test looks at getting kids back to school sooner

The pediatrician’s role in getting kids back to school, while protecting others

As the husband and son of teachers, I understand the importance of education. As a pediatrician, I want to make sure that kids are in school as much as possible so that the experts in education can do what they are called to do.

Along with this goal of each child’s attendance, we have to balance the goal of keeping others safe from infectious diseases. Our contagious students need to stay home when they are sick to keep the rest of their classmates safe. (This is why I don’t really care for perfect attendance bike raffles. I prefer responsible attendance.)

Balancing these tensions is often hard for the parent, the school and the pediatrician because we often don’t know exactly when a child is no longer contagious. This is why I got so geeky excited last week to see a new study released in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal about the contagiousness of strep throat.

The study looked at 111 children with strep throat over two days.

Day 1: Children who tested positive for strep were given their first dose of amoxicillin before 5 p.m. (They also had cultures taken which allow to see if bacteria will grow from a swab of their throats.)

Day 2: Children were retested and cultured for strep in the morning to determine if they still carried the bacteria in their throats.

Here is what they found:

  • 101 children tested negative for strep on the morning of day 2.
  • 7 children had significantly decreased growth of bacteria from their throat cultures.
  • 2 children continued to have high loads of bacteria.

The author’s conclusion: “all children treated with amoxicillin for streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat) by 5 p.m. can, if afebrile (fever free) and improved, may be permitted to return to attend school on day 2.”

I’m pretty sure you’re not as excited as I am, but THIS IS HUGE!

Based on current guidelines, children must be treated for 24 hours before being allowed to return to school. If we treated according to the results of this study, it would allow for the child to be back in school and for the parent to be back at work a whole day earlier.

I feel like there is a lot of work to be done in this area and this type of study, along with other models of health care delivery, are good examples of the work that will be necessary.

Because I value education and our school districts so much, I want to be constantly thinking about ways we can do this better. As a general pediatrician, I can really boil down the goals of my job to these:

1.Keep kids growing and healthy.

2.Keep kids developing and learning.

Early in your baby’s life, this looks like frequent checkups for preventing illness, monitoring growth (and talking about diet) and teaching ways that parents can help their child with development. (Read: Everyone should homeschool.)

As your child gets older and starts school, my role changes a little bit. I don’t ask my elementary age patients about fractions or my high school students about “The Great Gatsby.” Instead, I might ask, “How is school going?” “Any problems I need to know about?” “Any way I can help?”

On a practical level, this means offering school aged children after school appointments when possible. It means getting sick kids in the same day so that we can start treatment and get them back in their desks as soon as possible.

In the future, this may mean totally different modes of delivering health care and working with the school and school nurses in order to decrease missed class time.

But I’m getting ahead of my geeky self again. I’ll save that discussion for later.

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