By Beth Rubio, Chief Clinical Officer
How can I keep my child healthy in the school environment?
The start of a new school year exposes children to many things: new friends, new teachers, and lots of germs. According to the National Institutes of Health, families with school-age children have a higher rate of illness than other families and the number of illnesses per child can be as high as twelve per year.
The most common illnesses that plague schools are strep throat, colds, influenza and chicken pox. Head lice are also a familiar problem (especially among elementary school children), and school nurses rarely have a year without seeing cases of pink eye and Fifth Disease. Since it's virtually impossible to escape germs in school, the key is to learn how to be proactive in preventing these illnesses.
Staying healthy is not hard. Follow these simple tips for a healthy school year.
Use Good Hand washing techniques
Frequent hand-washing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to stay healthy in school. Remind your child to wash his or her hands before eating and after using the toilet, blowing his or her nose, or playing outside. Suggest soaping up for as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
Use hand sanitizer
Give your child alcohol-based hand sanitizer to keep in his or her desk. Remind your child to use the sanitizer before eating snacks or lunch and after using a shared computer mouse, pencil sharpener, water fountain or other community objects. If appropriate you might also give your child disinfecting wipes for general use.
Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
Give your child a package of tissues to keep in his or her desk. Encourage your child to cough or sneeze into a tissue — then put the tissue in the trash, and wash his or her hands or use hand sanitizer. If it isn't possible to reach a tissue in time, remind your child to cough or sneeze into the crook of his or her elbow.
Keep hands away from eyes and out of the mouth
Remind your child that hands are often covered in germs and should be kept away from the face.
Don't share water bottles, food, or other personal items
Offer your child this simple rule — if you put the item in your mouth, keep it to yourself.
Of course, it's also important for your child to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and stay current on his or her vaccinations, including a yearly flu vaccine. To prevent spreading illness at home, use the same tips for the entire family.