As your kids go back to school, make sure they have what they need to stay well.
As the weather gets cooler and kids get back in the swing of a school routine, germs can take a foothold. Sick kids can spread germs into your home and among your family—so one tiny runny nose can be a big problem.
One of the best ways to make sure your children stay well this season is to ensure they practice proper hygiene. Good hand washing is the first defense against many common illnesses.
“Hands should be scrubbed with soap under running water for at least 20 seconds,” says Amaan Haq, MD, Family Medicine Physician with DMC Metropolitan Primary Care Center. “It’s also important to dry hands well afterward. If soap and water aren’t available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used. Be sure to rub on the hands until they are completely dry.”
Before your kids go back to school, talk with your pediatrician or primary care provider (PCP) about immunizations. Children should be fully immunized against common childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella to avoid getting sick. Vaccinating your children also protects others.
“Some children cannot get vaccines because they have a weak immune system,” Dr. Haq says. “When these children are only around other vaccinated kids, they are protected. However, the fewer total children who are vaccinated, the more likely immune-compromised children are to get sick.”
Flu season is also just around the corner. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone age 6 months and older. If needles frighten your child, he or she may be able to get a nose spray vaccine. The earlier in the year they get vaccinated, the less likely they are to catch the flu during the season.
“A school environment is a breeding ground for any type of illness, especially the flu,” Dr. Haq says. “The close contact and large groups of people means that flu can spread quickly. Children with asthma and other chronic conditions may also be at risk for hospitalization if they get the flu. The flu vaccine is the safest, most effective way to stop the spread of influenza.”
When Illness Strikes
If you or your kids get sick, staying home from school or work will help keep the illness contained. When kids cough or sneeze, teach them to do so into their elbow rather than hands. Have them drink plenty of water to ensure they stay hydrated, and give them acetaminophen and ibuprofen to control any fever.
If they have a high fever, chills and full-body aches, it’s likely they have the flu. See your PCP as soon as possible so you can get anti-viral medications to give them to reduce the length and severity of the flu.