September 01, 2016

Staying Healthy in School

With school starting again this month, our children are exposed to new teachers and classmates, new idea and new activities. Unfortunately, with so many kids in close proximity to each other, sharing books, supplies and bathrooms, they’re also exposed to new germs. We’ve all seen how quickly colds and other viruses can spread in classrooms.

Now is a good time to remind your children of some best practices to stay healthy during the school year.

To protect themselves, teach them that washing hands is essential, not just after each bathroom visit, but after using gym equipment, musical instruments, art supplies and any other shared materials. Remind them, too, to keep their fingers away from their eyes, noses and mouths.

To protect others, teach them to always cover their mouths and noses with tissues or with an arm when coughing and sneezing, rather than using their hands.

Use caution if sending your children off with hand sanitizer in their backpacks. The alcohol content in liquid sanitizer gels is dangerous when eaten by young children. Yes, there are cases where children drink some of the gel (especially those that now smell like bubblegum or candy) and gotten quite sick.

There’s also a danger that kids may put their fingers in their mouths before liquid sanitizer has fully dried on the hands. Very young children may try to put paper sanitizer wipes in their mouth. The bottom line is, hand sanitizers do help protect against germs, but parents should monitor their use carefully and use good judgment about whether a child is old enough to understand how and when to use it safely on their own.

Parents should also be sure that their children get enough sleep and eat healthy foods. Keep them home when they’re sick. This can be difficult for working parents, but try to have a plan in advance for how to keep your kids out of school when they’re contagious and always when they have a fever. It’s better for your children and their classmates.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, and most school districts insist, that your children be vaccinated to protect them and others from infectious and, potentially, life-threatening illnesses, including measles, mumps, whooping cough, tetanus, polio and flu. Talk with your children’s doctor about what vaccines your child should get and when.

Of course, all of these tips for staying healthy apply to parents, as well as children, year-round, not just during the school year. The Wisconsin Health Information Organization, WHIO, Is committed to improving the quality, safety and efficiency of health care in our state. Visit the website MyHealthWI.org for tips on how to work with your doctor to ensure that you and your children receive the very best health care.

WHIO wishes your children a happy and healthy school year!