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Back-to-School Tips for Health!


Many of you are going through the back to school drill right now with your family. You are not alone.

Government statistics project nearly 57 million children will be in school this fall. Ninety percent, 50.7 million attend public school. Seven out of 10 are preschoolers to middle school students.

Within weeks the sniffles, coughs, and colds begin. Nearly 22 million days will be lost to the common cold during the school year. Children may catch upwards of 12 colds a year.


Young children and teens are still building up their immune systems. They just cannot fight infection as effectively as adults. Fall is also a time when allergies are triggered, students forget to take medications when they return from summer vacation, and germs thrive in schools where close contact with others is unavoidable.

Where do germs hide out at school?

  • Restroom door. Sinks, toilets, and urinals are cleaned regularly. Not so the entryway door that everyone touches. Not everyone washes his or her hands after using the bathroom.
  • Cafeteria trays and lunch boxes. Food and hands regularly touch these items that rarely get a thorough and deep cleaning.
  • Kids spend an entire day at their desks. Think sneezes, coughs, and all kinds of hand contaminants. Ewww!
  • Classroom items. Kids share and touch pencils, crayons, books and papers in the classroom. The dirtiest thing in the classroom is likely the pencil sharpener because it is used so often.
  • Drinking fountain. How many kids put their mouth right on the water spigot? The fountain is cleaned, but not as often as the bathroom. To use the fountain, let the water run for a minute first and catch the water above the spigot.

Teach your children good habits:

  • Keep children home when sick. If your child has a fever, is not well enough to participate in class, or is contagious, they should stay home.
  • Kids need plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep lowers immunity to viruses. Ten hours of sleep is recommended for students.
  • Get physical. Physical activity stimulates the immune system. Get kids off the couch and outside to play. Regular exercise helps reduce the frequency and severity of colds.
  • Keep fingers and hands away from eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs find their way into the body fastest through these entry paths. When sneezing or coughing, learn to do it into the crook of the elbow, not into the hands. Teach kids to use tissues, and always wash hands immediately.
  • Do wipe downs. Cold germs can survive on surfaces up to 72 hours. Use standard cleansing wipes on shared classroom desks, chairs, door handles, and computers regularly.
  • Watch where backpacks go. Backpacks carry books and supplies, but also catch germs, dirt and even fecal matter in their travels. Use stain remover treatment and cleansers to keep the bag clean, inside and out. Most importantly, banish backpacks from dining tables and countertops where food is prepared at home.
  • Wash your hands. Spend at least 20 seconds rubbing with soap and water, equal to two renditions of the Happy Birthday song. Wash hands throughout the day: before eating, after using the bathroom, and after using shared equipment like computers or printers.

One last thought: Don’t be an overzealous germaphobe.

Infants exposed to household germs, animal dander, and other allergens in their first year seem less likely to develop asthma and allergies. Healthy individuals should use antibacterial soaps, hand sanitizers, and antibacterial wipes sparingly if at all. Its chemicals may trigger allergies and develop resistance to antibiotics.

Regular soap and household cleaners have proven to be just as effective as antibacterial products when used properly.

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