While anyone can get sick, children are more prone to illness since they are still developing their immune systems and building tolerance to a variety of illnesses. While children can get sick at any time of the year, one of the most common times they fall ill is when school starts back up again in autumn. While children are understandably excited to see their friends, parents can take several precautions to ensure their children have a fun, healthy, and safe start to the school year. Here is more information about how to keep kids from getting sick this school year.
How do You Distinguish Illness From Allergies?
For parents, determining if a child has allergies or an illness can be difficult, as allergies also tend to flare up in the fall for some children. As a rule of thumb, a Tottori allergy doctor will tell you that one of the key distinguishing characteristics between allergies and illness is that allergies do not produce a fever, while many ailments do. If your child has a temperature along with symptoms such as a sore throat, congestion, or a cough, chances are that they are sick. If there is no fever, your child may have allergies instead. If a child has repeat symptoms at the same time every year, that is another indication that your child may have allergies instead of being sick. If you suspect that allergies may be the culprit to your child’s malaise, allergy testing is recommended for a differential diagnosis. If you’re wondering “where do I find the best pediatric allergist near me for accurate testing?”, contact Dr. Tottori for assistance in diagnosing and managing both adult and pediatric allergies.
What Causes Back to School Illness?
Children who are starting the new school year are prone to getting sick for a few different reasons. Children are exposed to a new situation when school starts, including interacting with a larger group of people, like parents, teachers, and fellow students. Although they usually go outside for brief periods of time, children are also in close quarters with all the people they encounter after the school year begins. That proximity means that they all share germs, which are typically viruses. Viruses can live for hours on surfaces, including tables, desks, and doorknobs. Exposure to sickness is very easy with the number of students and other individuals who touch those same surfaces.
What Germs are Most Common?
Children who are going back to school often experience what parents and supervisors call the “Back-to-School Plague.”
The most common illnesses in this category include:
- Stomach viruses
- Conjunctivitis (“pink eye”)
- Strep throat
Along with these common ailments, parents are now worried about their children contracting COVID-19. Although most illnesses that children develop are viruses, bacterial illnesses are also relatively common. One of the most common bacterial infections is impetigo, a skin infection, and some cases of strep throat can also be bacterial in nature.
While these are the most common ailments that arise early in the school year, parents should also be on the lookout for some conditions that typically develop later in the year, including the flu virus. Although the flu often arises in the winter months, it will spread quickly once the school season begins.
How Can Parents Keep Kids From Getting Sick?
A timeless question for parents is how to keep kids from getting sick during the winter. Ultimately, parents should instill basic hygiene practices in their children to keep them from getting sick. That includes instructing children to wash their hands regularly and properly and avoid other children who are not feeling well. Children should use soap and water and wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, but they can also use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available. If your child uses a hand sanitizer instead of soap and water, make sure that the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol in order to clean your child’s hands thoroughly. To ensure that your child’s hands stay clean on the go, consider giving them a bottle or two of hand sanitizer to carry around or get a bottle that clips onto the child’s backpack for easy reach.
Along with knowing how to wash or sanitize their hands properly, children should know when hand washing is essential. At a minimum, your child should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer in the following situations:
- Before and after eating
- After going to the bathroom
- After touching surfaces with heavy use, including desks, doorknobs, and handrails
- After blowing their nose or sneezing
Along with washing their hands after sneezing, coughing, or blowing their nose, children should also learn proper etiquette for any of the functions above. Children should be taught to sneeze and cough into their elbows as viruses can quickly spread when a person does not cover their mouth correctly.
How to Boost a Child’s Immune System
Learning good hygiene practices is important to prevent the spread of illness from one child to another. However, parents can do even more to ensure that their children have a lower risk of getting sick in the first place. Boosting a child’s immune system is relatively simple, and it can go a long way in helping a child stay healthy when school starts up in the fall.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, getting sufficient sleep is one of a child’s best defenses against common illnesses. Children who are preschool age should get anywhere from 10-13 hours of sleep each day, and older children aged 6-12 should aim for no less than 9-12 hours of sleep daily. Teenagers should try to get between 8-10 hours of sleep each night. If your child takes naps, the amount that they sleep during nap time can count toward that night’s sleep total.
Getting enough sleep is beneficial for good health. Still, parents should also try to minimize stress levels, as excess stress can leave a child physically and emotionally drained, which in turn lowers their chance of fighting off an infection. Before the school year begins, parents should ask their children what fears and concerns they have about starting the school year. Knowing what is stressing a child out allows parents to understand and help mitigate the source of stress.
Lastly, any vaccination that your child is eligible for should be kept up to date. That applies to the COVID-19 vaccine and more traditional vaccines such as the flu and other illnesses. If you are not sure whether your child is up to date on their vaccines, schedule an appointment with a pediatric allergy specialist before school starts. Keep in mind that some vaccines take a bit of time to become effective, which means that planning ahead for vaccinations is essential to ensure your child starts school as fully immunized as possible.
If you want your child to stay healthy and school and find relief from allergy and asthma symptoms, make an appointment with Dr. Tottori today. You can call (702) 240 4233 or visit us online for an appointment.