Back to School: Keeping Kids Healthy

Written By: Dr. Adam Hutchinson, MD, Pediatrics

Fall has always been my favorite time of year! Corn mazes, hoodies, football, pumpkin flavored hot chocolate, and of course, back-to-school. It’s one of the best times to be in Northern Utah. Going back to school is a fun and anxiety-filled time for both students and parents.

One thing we all seem to forget about during those long summer weeks is how easy it is to become ill. Once the kids are all “back together again” and the rest of us start spending more time indoors, we all end up a lot closer to a larger population of people. Statistically, that increases the likelihood of a sick person coming in contact with someone who is well and getting them sick, and that person getting a couple other people sick, and….we all know how it goes…

That’s why now is a great time to remember simple things that can help keep us well during these upcoming months:

  1. Handwashing makes happy – Keeping germ free hands is your number one go-to to avoid getting sick. Everyone touches their face multiple times a day. Frequent face touchers (and you know who you are), can touch their face hundreds of times per day. Old fashioned soap and warm water is the best, but portable hand sanitizer is a very close second and does a great job when used frequently. If you become ill, use it even more!! For cold and flu germs to get to you, they pretty much have to come from someone else’s face to yours. Often it’s done through the undercover work of a fomite (that’s science talk for some regular object you touch frequently that transfers someone’s nasty germs to you). A pencil, set of keys, computer mouse – they all might bring you down. Parents and teachers, remember to keep hand sanitizers handy (pun intended) for everyone to use, and regularly wipe down highly frequented places.
  2. Sharing is caring, but not really – If you do go down in battle, don’t bring others down with you. It’s often difficult for parents to know when to send their kids to school and when to keep them home. Kids can have pretty nasty coughs that seem to last forever and no one wants to get anyone else sick. The problem is, a cold lasts for more than a week on average, and sometimes more than two weeks. Kids can get really behind in school if they’re kept out for the better part of a month. The general rule is, if your child has a fever keep them home. Also, good hygiene for coughing is important – such as coughing into the crux of the elbow, tissue or hands – and of course, washing your hands afterward.
  3. The flu vaccine – This is an option for anyone interested. If the majority of a population is immune to the current flu virus then even those that can’t be vaccinated, like very young children, are still protected. The flu vaccine is always kind of a moving target as scientists at the CDC give their best estimate as to which will be the most prevalent strains of flu each year. In previous years, the nasal flu vaccine has been available. Last year, it was not as it was found to be ineffective against the most prevalent strains and we had to go back to the shot (sorry kids). This year we’re still waiting for word on what we’ll have available here in the United States. Either way, the flu vaccine is our best defense against the flu and should be rolling out in the next few weeks.

These are just a few little things that can help keep school kids (and you) from getting sick over the coming months. Inevitably, some will get sick, and that’s what Tanner Clinic is here for. If you’re down and things just don’t seem typical or just don’t seem to be getting better, come and see us. We’ll be ready to offer a hand (recently washed, of course).