It’s Back to School Time: Keeping Your Entire Family Healthy

Did you know that children can catch a common cold as many as six to eight a year, thus putting your entire family at risk? Not to mention rashes, ear infections, the stomach bug, and other medical problems. A lot of the time, they pick up the germs for these conditions from school, and they bring them home to share with the family.

Even if you take certain measures at home, your children can come in contact with germs that linger on desks, doorknobs, lockers, and other surfaces at school. Therefore, it’s important to know how to keep your children (and your entire family) safe. Here are some tips:

1. Keep hands clean

The common cold spreads quickly in school. It can cause a variety of symptoms, such as a sore throat, a hacking cough, congestion, headaches, and mild fatigue. There’s no cure for the common cold, and most infections clear up after a few days.

Preventive measures can help keep your child and your family safe from germs. Teach your children the importance of washing their hands during the day, particularly before eating meals. Washing their hands with soap and water is best. And of course, to ward off germs, you should do the same!

Though hand sanitizer is less effective, you could include a small bottle in their lunch box or book bag. This way, if they can’t readily wash their hands, they can disinfect their hands throughout the day.

Also, encourage children not to touch their mouth, face, or nose with their hands. This reduces the risk of the common cold, and it can help keep them safe from other contagious infections, such as pinkeye.

2. Get the flu vaccine

The flu is more serious than the common cold. Symptoms might include a high fever, exhaustion, coughing, congestion, and severe body aches. Like the common cold, the flu virus can also spread rapidly in schools. And once sick, it might take one or two weeks to recover.

The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of getting the flu by 40 to 60 percent, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Getting vaccinated can also help protect against flu-related secondary infections like ear infections and pneumonia.

To protect your family during flu season, get the flu vaccine.

3. Teach them not to share drinks and food

Sharing food or drink with a friend can spread cold and flu germs. Also, your child could get sick with other contagious illnesses that spread through direct contact with saliva or mucus. These include mononucleosis, stomach viruses, and hand, foot, and mouth disease.

Make sure your child avoids sharing personal items such as hats and scarves. Some highly contagious illnesses and infections are passed that way, including head lice and ringworm.

4. Get moving

Physical activity is important for strengthening the immune system and helping bodies fight off infections. Get creative and think of fun ways to be physically active as a family. Play sports outside, such as basketball or kickball. Or try other outdoor activities such as skating, tennis, or bike riding.

If you or your child contracts an infection, don’t panic. Take him or her to the pediatrician. If you feel sick and it’s not an emergency, please call us at Prosperity Internal Medicine at 703-876-9300 for an appointment. Our group uses the latest advances in medicine, offering our patients access to innovative health management technologies, proactive team-based care, and an evidenced-based, patient-centered approach.