Schools and child care centers are teeming with
germs and contagious illnesses. Common infections like the flu, colds, stomach
bugs, ear infections, and pink eye spread like wildfire.
Most parents wish they could do more to protect
Even worse, kids bring these illnesses home and
infect their siblings, parents, and other family members, which can be
dangerous if there’s an infant or elderly family member in the home.
There are three reasons why school-age kids catch infections so easily: Their immune system is still underdeveloped, they’re in close contact with other sick and unhealthy kids all day, and they tend to have germy habits like touching their faces and sticking things in their mouths. To protect your kids at school, you must deal with these three issues.
Vaccination is by far the best way to boost
immunity. It not only keeps your kids from getting sick but also protects other
family members whose immune system is weak or compromised, which is why many
pediatricians are big fans of the flu shot!
However, there’s a timing challenge with the flu shot. It can take up to 12 weeks to build immunity after getting vaccinated, so ideally, you should get a flu shot towards the end of fall and beginning of winter. Getting the timing right sometimes means that parents must make a special trip to the doctor or pharmacy.
Encourage them to wash
Washing your hands is pretty basic, but it
works! You wouldn’t believe the number of kids who don’t wash their hands
despite knowing better. One study by the CDC found that 97% of kids know that
handwashing prevents illnesses, but most still need encouragement to do it!
Make sure your kids wash their hands as soon as they come home from school. If possible, set up a handwashing station right inside the door to help them remember; consider letting them choose a favorite soap.
Secondly, provide hand sanitizers for older
kids. They’re a cheap and easy way to kill germs when hand washing isn’t an
option. However, they’re not ideal for young kids because, apparently, children
love swallowing hand sanitizer! But if it’s the only thing you have, use it!
Teach them not to
share personal items
It might go against the golden rule of
‘sharing,’ but your kids need to know what to share and what not to share.
Teach them not to share personal items like water bottles and lip balms. If
possible, pack water bottles for your kids until they learn how to drink from
water fountains without putting their mouths on them.
Keep them home when
As much as possible, sick kids shouldn’t go to
school until they’re well. If they have a fever, keep them home until they’ve
not had a fever for at least twenty-four hours. Protect healthy kids, and any
children with compromised immune systems by keeping your lovable, cuddly,
charming little petri dish at home
The two lines of defense that usually never fail when it comes to protecting kids from illnesses are vaccinations and good hygiene. The latter is more challenging because you can’t follow your kids around all day, reminding them to wash their hands, cover their mouths when they sneeze or cough, and not stick things in their mouths.
It takes a while for certain habits to take hold – especially when a kid doesn’t like doing them or finds them unpleasant. But, keep teaching them until it sticks and be a good example when they’re home.
Photo by CDC on Unsplash