Avoiding back-to-school illness

person filling up glass at a faucet

Despite our greatest efforts, it’s not uncommon for kids to get sick at the start of a new school year.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a cold, but as more families opt out of or choose to delay routine vaccinations, preventable diseases like meningitis, chicken pox, measles, mumps and whooping cough potentially are turning into epidemics in our schools.

“What parents often don’t realize is that their child will be at risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease during the period of delay and putting other children around them at risk as well,” said SSM Health Dean Medical Group pediatrician Dr. Michael Trias.

Wisconsin does have a vaccine requirement for children attending day cares and schools, which can be found on the Wisconsin Department of Health website for easy reference.

“Back-to-school time is an excellent time for parents to make sure their children have had an annual physical and are up-to-date on vaccines,” Trias said.

Aside from making sure your child is up to date on vaccinations, the next most important way to prevent illness is to teach your child to wash their hands regularly. That means more than just a quick splash of water and soap. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following hand-washing steps:

Wet your child’s hands.
Apply bar soap or liquid soap to the hands.
Rub the hands vigorously together, scrubbing every surface completely: front and back, under the fingernails and between the fingers.
Rub and scrub for 10 to 15 seconds, long enough to sing the ABCs or another short song, then rinse thoroughly.
Dry hands with a clean towel.

Of course, water and soap are not always available or convenient. When washing with soap and water won’t work, hand sanitizer with at least 62 percent alcohol content is a good alternative.

Armed with a consistent routine, good nutrition, adequate sleep and illness prevention, your child will be more likely to head back to school ready to learn.