Back to School - Keeping Your Kids Healthy
September 19, 2018
September 19, 2018
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.
Tips for giving yourself the best chance at staying well
With flu season upon us, don’t delay getting a flu vaccination if you haven’t already done so. It’s better to make time for a flu shot or nasal spray than have to put your life on hold due to illness. And if there are several members in your household, it’s very difficult to prevent the virus from spreading from one to the next, so why not make getting your vaccinations a family affair?
Here are some flu facts from the CDC:
- Flu viruses, like many other viruses, mainly spread by being in close proximity to an infected person who is coughing, sneezing, or talking. Also, viruses are spread by touching a surface that have the virus on it (door handle, shopping cart, card reader, keyboard, toys, etc.) and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.
- A person with the flu virus may be contagious beginning one day before showing symptoms themselves and five to seven days after becoming sick, or even longer.
- Those that are sick with a flu-like virus should, with the exception of seeking medical care, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone without the aid of fever-reducing medicine.
In addition to getting an annual flu vaccine, the following tips are important any time of year, not just during flu season:
- This is a biggie – wash your hands often with soap and water. And make this the first thing you do when you get home from anywhere. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you can’t wash.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. This is another biggie.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than covering your face with your hand. If you suspect you’re sick, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue and then discard the tissue.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects on a regular basis because not everyone remembers to follow tips 1, 2, and 3!
There are generally numerous convenient opportunities to get a flu shot or nasal spray, whether your workplace brings in a healthcare team, you stop in at your local pharmacy clinic, or you go to your regular physician’s office, so make it a priority. For those of you in the vicinity of our Rapid Med offices in Double Oak or The Colony, feel free to call, schedule online, or walk in for your flu vaccine today. Rapid Med is open seven days a week and can address all of your urgent care, primary care, preventive, and occupational care needs.
We’ll offer information on the flu vaccine and antiviral medications in our next blog post, so stay tuned.