Keep Your Kids Healthy This School Year

  Keeping Your Kids Healthy in School   

With the school year now in full swing, cold and flu season has swept in on its coattails. Kids who filled the summer months playing outside or in limited groups now spend their days inside. Elementary classrooms average 22 students, while middle schools and high schools pack 25 kids or more.  Under these conditions, the average elementary student will pick up five to six viruses per school year, and an adolescent will average four.


Students, both large and small, have little personal space in the average classroom. When one student sneezes or coughs, their germs almost certainly spread to several others around them. Parents often complain that their children seem always to be getting sick since starting school, calling it the "back to school plague." So, what can a parent do to prevent those germs from turning into a full-blown illness?


A Dose of Prevention

According to experts, the best way to teach your kids to prevent illness comes by way of good modeling at home. When kids see their parents constantly practicing good hygiene, they will automatically do it at school and be much less likely to pick up germs. For example, when parents sneeze into their elbows and practice diligent and proper hand washing, students will follow suit. 


As bad as the discomfort of illness might be, homework piling up because of school absences can be just as hard for a child to deal with when they are feeling better again. With younger kids, one parent must take time off to stay home if he or she works in-person. Clearly, germs can wreak chaos if they find a way in, so wise parents diligently guard against their progress.


Keys to Staying Upright When Everyone Else is Dropping

Factors other than preventing the spread of germs play key roles in keeping kids healthy. Parents must also focus on these key elements:

  1. Make sure kids get plenty of sleep: kids between the ages of 6 and 12 need 9 to 12 hours of sleep per night, while teens need 8 to 10 hours. 
  2. Keep stress at a minimum: watch for signs of anxiety, such as changes in eating or sleeping. Allow kids to choose their own extracurricular activities, and keep those activities manageable.
  3. Keep vaccinations up to date: be especially mindful of influenza and COVID-19 shots. Students heading to college should get the Meningococcal vaccine before setting foot in their dorm's close quarters.
  4. Ensure that children eat a healthy diet: as soon as their child begins solid food, some parents offer only healthy choices. They serve up fruits and vegetables, yogurt, and whole grains, and limit sugary drinks and snacks. By doing this, parents help kids develop lifelong good eating habits, which boosts kids' immune system.


Is That an Illness I See Before Me?

Despite a parent's best efforts, those persistent germs will sometimes still infect kids. How does a parent know whether to send them to school with a cold? Parents must consider not only their own child's well-being, but whether their student is contagious. In general, experts agree on the following guidelines when making the decision about keeping a child home or sending them to school:

  1. Fever: physicians recommend that students with a temperature of 100.4 or above should stay home from school. 
  2. Persistent cough or congestion that is not caused by allergies
  3. Sore throat
  4. Vomiting
  5. Diarrhea


Students in high school who aren’t feeling well should follow the same guidelines about when to stay home. However, elementary school kids and teenagers require different levels of parental care. While most teenagers can look after themselves with frequent check-ins, younger students need a parent with them during their illness.


A Mountain of Makeup Work: Avoiding Relapse  

Teachers often excuse makeup work in the youngest students, while older elementary kids can usually catch up fairly quickly. The real quandary lies at the feet of high schoolers, who often face mounds of makeup work missed during their absence.  These students can easily become sleep deprived, tirelessly trying to catch up, putting them at risk of remaining sick longer or catching something else. To avoid this, parents should work with teachers to create a manageable makeup work schedule. 


Getting Serious About Keeping Them Healthy

The reality remains that when parents send their kids to school, most of those kids will contract a virus simply from being in such close proximity to their peers. But diligent parents can make a difference, reducing the number of viruses their child contracts. Smart parents remember these guidelines:

  1. Buy each child their own school supply kit, such as an Edukit, and discourage passing around utensils. Instead, encourage kids to ask their teachers for spare materials if they run out.
  2. Teach kids how to sneeze and cough into elbows or tissues.
  3. Practice washing hands with little ones, using an appropriate amount of soap and length of time. A great tip is to teach them to sing a song, like the happy birthday tune, to know how long to wash for.
  4. Keep kids home when they are sick. 


As the world returned to a relatively normal state, and COVID-19 ceased to be the only virus on people's minds, kids went back to the classroom. The common cold joined them, as did strep throat and tonsillitis, the flu, and stomach bugs. School nurses everywhere spend their days calling parents to pick up sick students, but with a bit of prevention, parents' phones don't have to ring quite as often.