The kids are going back to school! It’s an exhilarating time of year for parents – and a complicated one. You may be shedding a tear as you send your kids off to start another exciting year of living and learning. At the same time, though, you might be breathing a sigh of relief. After all, especially for those with younger kids, spending an entire summer operating at the energy level of an elementary schooler can make you look forward to those (still rare) afternoons of relative quiet. The last thing you want to wrangle with in September is a cold. What teachers and parents who have done a few rounds of the back to school season know though, and what the science backs up, is that students returning to the classroom encounter and spread bacteria and viruses.
That can be rough on everyone. Balancing parenthood, work and other responsibilities can be stressful when you’re in top form. Doing it when you’re sick makes it even harder to keep up. Taking care of a sick child at the same time makes things even more difficult. A new dose of classroom germs can kick off a snowballing cycle of what CNN called the "Back to School Plague" . Illness spreads from your child’s classroom to your children to their siblings to you. However, you can prevent this cycle of sickness from starting.
Back to school means back to germs, but if you and your family follow these five tips, it doesn’t have to mean getting back into bed.
- • Kids and adults: wash your hands!
- Teaching hand hygiene basics is one simple way to reduce the risk of kids catching classroom colds and bringing them home. Washing hands with soap in warm (not hot) water for about 20 seconds can help, according to the CDC. Hand washing after using the restroom, after touching garbage, before and after eating, cooking and so on is an important practice for your children and for you.
- • Know the germ hot spots (they might surprise you).
- Everybody knows that germs thrive in bathrooms. There are other places in a classroom, hidden in plain sight, that can be serious sources of disease transmission. The drinking fountain is one of them, as CNN reports, and kids can protect against colds by running the water for a while before drinking, or bringing their own bottles. Washing hands after touching cafeteria trays, which can get grimy, is another cold-preventing hygiene hack.
- • Keep sick kids home!
- Sending a child who is feeling ill to school to “tough it out” isn’t just hard on the kid, it puts the rest of the students, and their families, at risk as well. Taking a few days off to get better is worth it for everyone’s well being. It can make a whole community’s back to school experience a little easier.
- • Get vaccinated.
- The efficacy of vaccination in minimizing flu outbreak severity is well-established, so parents, kids, and people working in schools should all stay up to date on them. They can be as helpful to your health during the back to school season as they are when flu season peaks a few months later.
- • Stay healthy.
- Getting enough sleep, healthy eating habits and regular exercise can give your immune system a boost. It’s important year-round, can have an additional payoff in times like back to school season, when there’s a higher chance of germ exposure for everyone.
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