6 Back-to-School Tips for Preventing COVID-19 and Other Common Illnesses
As the new school year kicks off, parents and caregivers are helping prepare their children for the new normal in schools, especially as it relates to staying healthy and safeguarding themselves from COVID-19 and other common illnesses that are easily spread. Whether your child is going off to college or starting kindergarten, we are here to help by offering some tips to help keep kiddos healthy and safe during the school year and beyond.
1. Stop germs in their tracks
Schools are often jokingly called “petri dishes,” and for good reason: germs are everywhere. Regular hand washing is the number one measure to stop germs in their tracks. Remind your children to wash their hands upon returning home from school or daycare. Younger children will require some extra help and guidance, including showing them how to properly use sanitizer by rubbing it in until their hands are dry. They may need to be shown how and when they should wash their hands and for how long. A good idea is to have them sing or hum “Happy Birthday” twice, which accounts for the recommended hand-washing time of 20 seconds.
It also helps to keep hand sanitizer and hand wipes in the car and in backpacks. Additionally, make sure your child’s backpack is clean. Wipe off their bag and, if you’re able, take out your child’s school supplies and books and wipe them down. You might even be able to toss the backpack in the washing machine at the end of the week.
2. Teach germ etiquette
Lack of germ etiquette is another reason for the quick spread of common illnesses in the classroom. When children sneeze and cough into their hands then pass objects to one another, they spread germs unknowingly. The best way to keep from contracting an airborne illness is utilizing the proper germ etiquette by covering your mouth with a tissue during a cough or sneeze, throwing away the tissue and promptly washing your hands. If a tissue is not available, then sneeze or cough into your elbow and wash your hands after. Both these options signal to others that your hands are clean and ready for play!
3. Avoid sharing at school
Parents usually teach kids to share, but when there’s an outbreak of the common flu and other illnesses, it’s best to avoid this practice. It typically takes school-aged children quite some time to break the habit of touching their eyes, noses and mouths. Truthfully, some adults still haven’t gotten the hang of it!
In order to discourage the sharing of supplies, it is suggested that children have their own stationery, writing utensils, and other school supplies. It may help to purchase pens and pencils in bulk that can easily be given away. Keeping hand sanitizer close by helps when sharing cannot be avoided.
4. Stay home when sick
Even when you do your best to avoid your child catching a virus, it will eventually happen. When it does, it’s best to keep your child home. This is true when they present any symptoms of a virus like fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, digestive issues, and more.
If your child has a fever, most doctors recommend that she stay home for 24 hours after the fever has subsided. A day away from school or other public places ensures that she will not spread the illness. If possible, confirm with their doctor that they are symptom-free first before going back to school.
5. Stay up to date on vaccinations and check-ups
Vaccinations are proven highly-effective at protecting us from various diseases. It’s important to ensure your child doesn’t miss their recommended immunizations or their annual well check.
Start by protecting your family with the seasonal flu vaccine. Then check with your child’s physician to see if he or she is due for any other immunizations. If you have a child going away to college for the first time and staying in the dormitory, ask your doctor about the meningococcal vaccine. Immunizations arm the body against incoming attacks and keep your child’s immune system healthy and ready for fighting off new viruses for which they have not been vaccinated, like the novel coronavirus.
6. Boost your immune system
Another helpful way to prevent getting ill is by building up your immune system, which is easier than you may think. Start by eating healthy, getting enough sleep and being active through various forms of exercise. Even incorporating short walks outside helps! Add in the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables to your child’s diet, which ranges from 1-2 cups of fruit and 1-3 cups of vegetables. This varies by a child’s age, gender and level of activity. For young adults between 19 and 30 years of age, the recommendation is two cups of fruit and two to three cups of vegetables a day.
The Sleep Foundation has helpful recommendations for how much sleep your child needs, based on their age. Sleep affects a number of different immune factors, and adequate sleep is associated with a reduced risk of infection and improved infection outcome. To translate, getting enough sleep will help you child stay well and get well, if they do end up getting sick.
Flagstaff Pediatric Care is here to help
Children will have a better school year if they remain healthy and ready to learn in the classroom. Not only will your family see the benefit, their classmates and teachers will, too. We hope the tips listed above will help prepare your family for an exciting school year ahead!
Flagstaff Pediatric Care wants to keep children healthy and ready for back-to-school by providing a variety of services including full spectrum pediatric care, screenings and immunizations. Contact us for more information on the services provided or schedule immunizations or a check-up today!