Ask the Nurse: Staying Healthy In School
The start of a new school year exposes children to many things — new friends, 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 12 per year. The most common illnesses that plague schools are strep throat, colds, influenza and chicken pox. Head lice is 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. In addition, wash 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 their 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 their desk as well. 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 their elbow. Remember to keep hands away from your eyes and out of your mouth. Remind your child that hands are often covered in germs.
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 their vaccinations — including a yearly flu vaccine. To prevent spreading illness at home, use the same tips for the entire family.
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DISCLAIMER: The contents of the Ask the Nurse column (“Column”) such as text, medical information, graphics, images and any and all other material contained in the column (“Content”) are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your (or your child’s) physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. NEVER DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY IN SEEKING CARE BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU (OR YOUR CHILD) HAVE READ IN ANY MEDICAL LITERATURE!
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This post originally appeared on our September/October 2013 Magazine