Back to School – Keeping Your Kids Healthy

Back to School - Keeping Your Kids Healthy

With the school year now beginning, many parents are concerned about their kids getting sick. Many parents feel like their kids are constantly getting sick and wonder if there is anything they can do to prevent this.  Needless to say, not all illness is preventable, but there are things that can be done to decrease your family’s chances of getting sick.

The most important thing that helps avoid illness is frequent hand washing. This is not always practical at school, particularly for young children, but getting your child a small bottle of antibacterial hand gel to keep in his backpack can be just as effective, particularly if used frequently.

Also, the importance of getting plenty of sleep and eating a healthy diet in order to maintain a healthy immune system cannot be overstated.  Kids that are chronically sleep deprived may have higher levels of stress hormones in their body that can inhibit immune system function. This is particularly important for a child who already may have a cold–plenty of rest and a healthy diet can help the child recover more quickly and prevent secondary bacterial infection.

Flu season is also just around the corner. I hear a lot of patients tell me that every time they get the flu shot, they still end up getting the flu. It is true that the flu shot does not prevent all cases of the flu. Sometimes a strain of the flu does not get covered by the flu shot, and occasionally a patient may not have an adequate immune response to get completely immune to the flu. The flu shot does significantly reduce your chances of getting the flu. Even more importantly, if you do get the flu, it tends to be less severe and less prone to complications.   It is particularly important for people with asthma, diabetes, or other chronic medical problems to get the flu shot as they are more likely to develop life threatening complications. However, even perfectly healthy folks can die from complications of the flu. The flu shot can prevent these deaths.

We continue to see cases of whooping cough (pertussis), so it is especially important to ensure that your family is vaccinated against this. This can be a deadly illness in infants and young children.

Besides just the usual cold viruses and stomach bugs, staph skin infections are quite common.  While staph infections can be invasive and potentially life threatening, most cases are just simple skin infections.  These infections are spread through casual contact, and most require treatment by draining and possibly antibiotics.  Again, these infections can be prevented by frequent hand washing or use of antibacterial hand gel.  It is also important to tell your child not to share clothing, towels, etc. with other kids.

It is not uncommon for kids, especially young kids, to get several illnesses during the school year.  Not all of these are avoidable, but by following these simple recommendations, you may be able to avoid a few of them.

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