Back to School, Back to Germs: 6 Tips to Keep Your Kids Healthy

The start of the school year marks the return to germ-swapping, sniffles and tummy bugs. Is there anything you can do to help keep your child from getting sick? 

While your family can’t prevent all illnesses passed around at school, good hand-washing hygiene and a few other simple health tips can help. Dr. Mia Finkelston shared these pointers for a healthier back-to-school season and school year: 

  • Model good hand-washing habits. Kids don’t like to take time away from friends and socializing to do things like wash their hands. Try to make it something they don’t think about by showing them yourself! As a parent, wash your hands before you eat, after you sneeze into them, and after you touch you face — especially if you are sick.
  • Make hand-washing fun! Get creative — make a game of hand-washing, sing a song while kids scrub up, or make colorful door-knob hangers or signs with your kids reminding everyone: “wash your hands!” In time, it’ll be something kids do automatically.
  • Raise kids’ awareness of germs. Germs can live on many surfaces, so try to get children to understand that if they needlessly touch desks and countertops at school, they should do their best to not touch their face afterward. Rubbing your nose, eyes or even hair can bring germs closer to your mucus membranes, possibly leading to illness.
  • Know when kids should take a sick day. If your child has a fever, keep him or her home to prevent the spread of germs. If your child has no fever but has a runny nose, drippy eyes, frequently sneezing or a loose sounding cough, these symptoms can encourage the spread of germs, especially if hands are not washed.
  • Stick with healthy lifestyle habits in general. Getting adequate, regular sleep, eating a healthy well-rounded diet, and getting daily exercise can help children (and adults!) by supporting a healthy immune system to fight off germs. When our body’s defenses are down, we are most vulnerable to illness. Try to pack in fruits and veggies, especially ones that are loaded with vitamin C (think: bell peppers and citrus fruits).
  • Stay up-to-date with immunizations. Going to well child check-ups is a must, not only for immunizations (which can protect against many communicable illnesses), but also to get a refresher on healthy habits to practice at home and school, including dental hygiene and healthy snacking. 

If kids have a condition that predisposes them to illness, try to educate them about why they should stick with healthy habits. For example, a child with asthma should try extra-hard to practice good hand-washing since exposure to illness can sometimes exacerbate their asthma.

In general, many children in late elementary and middle school can understand their health, and are often interested in learning about it. Talk with your kids about why these healthy habits are important, and enjoy a school year with fewer ailments and a lot of fun! 

If your child does come down with an illness and you’re not sure what treatment he or she needs or whether it’s worth a sick day, turn to LiveHealth Online! Talk with a doctor anytime 24/7, from anywhere.

Photo of Mia Finkelston
Mia Finkelston
Family Physician
20 years of experience
MCP Hahnemann University School of Medicine

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