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Now that the first school bell has rung in the academic year, many parents—especially parents of younger children—worry about students’ wellness. However, you can help keep your student healthy by arming yourself and your child with information about ways to avoid illness. After all, illness can lead to absence, which can have a direct impact on the learning process.

With children being in close quarters every day, conditions are favorable for the spread of communicable diseases, such as respiratory illnesses, colds and the flu. Perhaps the simplest thing students can do to prevent spreading germs from person to person is to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly. The Texas Department of State Health Services recommends:

  • Scrubbing your hands for about 20 seconds, using warm water and soap
  • Drying your hands with a clean, disposable towel
  • Using an alcohol-based hand cleaner when soap and water are not available

Most importantly, make sure students wash their hands before eating, or touching their mouth, nose and eyes. Students should also avoid sharing things that may contain respiratory germs, such as food, eating utensils, drinking glasses,lipstick and towels.

Remind kids to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue (not a handkerchief) every time they sneeze, blow their nose or cough. If one is not available, they should cough or sneeze into their elbow or upper sleeve.

If your children do get sick and develop a fever, keep them home until they are cleared by a physician to return to school. Because many viruses can survive for hours outside the body, cleaning household surfaces with a virus-killing disinfectant can help prevent the spread of infection among siblings at home.

Additionally, ensure your child is up to date on all vaccines (if your student was allowed to register and attend school this year, he or she is likely current on all immunizations, as students in public schools cannot attend classes without proper immunization, unless they are exempt).

Finally, make sure your child gets plenty of rest. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, elementary school-age children need 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night, while children between the ages of 10 and 17 need about eight or nine hours of sleep.

While taking these precautions won’t guarantee an illness-free school year, it can considerably lessen the likelihood a child will get sick—and help ensure your student is performing at his or her optimal level.

–James Balarbar, M.D., is the medical director at St. David’s Urgent Care Circle C

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