Brookwood Baptist Health Blog

Stories and tips for a healthy lifestyle

Back-to-School Health

Sep 8, 2016

BackToSchoolHealthSummer is coming to an end, and school is back in session. The new school year often means excitement, but it can mean something else too: back-to-school illnesses. From bugs getting passed around to more serious ailments, it can be difficult to keep your child healthy this time of year.

“The most common back-to-school illnesses we see are the common cold, flu, and gastroenteritis (the stomach bug),” said Dr. Marie Pittman, a family medicine practitioner at Brookwood Baptist Health Primary Care – Oak Mountain.

Dr. Pittman warns parents to be on the lookout for the following symptoms, as they may mean your child needs medical attention:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

“If your child develops any of these symptoms, be cautious,” said Dr. Pittman. “Don’t send your child to school if they are sick, as it can spread the illness to others. Always use your best judgement, but don’t be afraid to contact your child’s physician if you have any concerns.”

So what’s the best way to make sure your children don’t come home sick this school year? Dr. Pittman says the key is making sure your child practices good personal hygiene.

“Your child should practice good hand hygiene by washing their hands before eating, after using the restroom and after playing outside. Also, have your child cover their mouth or nose when coughing or sneezing. Both of these help reduce the spread of illnesses.”

It is also important to make sure that your child is up-to-date on wellness exams and recommended vaccinations, including the flu vaccine.

“Immunizations have been proven effective in preventing children from becoming infected with many preventable infectious illnesses,” says Dr. Pittman.

“Immunization requirements generally vary by age and state regulations, so always ensure your child’s vaccines are up-to-date by checking with your child’s physician. Discuss any questions or concerns you may have with them as well.”

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends the following timeline for vaccinations, though your local school’s requirements may vary:

4-6 year olds are typically required to obtain the following vaccinations:

  • DTaP (Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis) – which protects against the Whooping Cough, tetanus and some oral infections
  • Polio
  • Measles/Mumps/Rubella
  • Chicken Pox (also known as Varicella)

11-12 year olds typically require:

  • Tdap (Tetanus, Diptheria and Pertussis)
  • Meningococcal – which protects against Meningitis
  • Of note, most physicians will start offering the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) Vaccine at this age as well to help prevent certain cancers. This is administered in a three-shot series. It is recommended that young girls and boys obtain this vaccine series once between the ages of 11-26 years old.

16-18 year olds typically require:

  • Meningococcal

While it can be tough to keep your child healthy during the school year, your primary care provider can be an invaluable resource.

If you would like to make an appointment with Dr. Marie Pittman or another BBH Primary & Specialty Care provider, please call (877) 909-4233 or visit