SCHOOL OF HEALTHOct 6, 2015
It’s that time of year again – back to school! The new school year is exciting with new teachers, new friends, and new things to learn, but back-to-school can also mean sicknesses, which can put a damper on anyone’s day.
There are many health risks your child can face when at school. To help you stay off the ick, we spoke with James Weems, MD, Edith DelaCruz, M.D. and Muhammad Siddiqui, M.D. of Talladega Pediatrics to get the scoop on what you need to do to keep your children healthy.
There are a lot of health risks children face when going back to school including exposure to other sick children, and lingering germs on surfaces. All of these factors can expose children to viral and bacterial infections. But illnesses aren’t the only thing to worry about. Injuries at school may include general bumps, bruises from playground, head injuries or sports injuries like broken bones and concussions.
So what can you do to make sure your child stays healthy and in school? Here are seven tips from our experts for good back to school health:
1. Teach your child good hygiene habits. Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before eating, after sneezing or coughing and touching multiple public surfaces, such as door handles. Cover your mouth or nose with a tissue when you cough or cough into your elbow or sleeve. Prevention can go a long way towards stopping illnesses from spreading like wildfire.
2. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. Children need at least 10 hours of sleep a day, even teenagers. Between activities, homework and family time, it can seem impossible. However, sleep is vital to a healthy body, so make sure your child gets enough rest.
3. Dress your child appropriately for the weather. This one may seem simple, but making sure your child is adequately dressed for the weather outside can go a long way in making sure they stay healthy. Be sure they take their coat and umbrella, even if they complain.
4. Educate your child on the signs and symptoms of common illnesses. If your child knows the signs and symptoms of common illnesses, they will be able to alert you sooner if something’s not right. This means that treatment can be administered quicker and the chance of others becoming infected decreases.
5. Have them eat right and exercise. Diet and exercise play an important part in a child’s overall health and development. By making sure your child eats right and gets plenty of exercise, you will help them build a stronger immune system.
6. Make sure your child’s school has all the health information they need. If a child is going to need medication during the day, make sure the medication forms and medication in the original containers is taken to the nurse on the first day the child returns to school. Make sure that the school has parent contact information during the school day in case there’s an issue.
7. Always keep an eye on your child. Parents should watch their children for signs and symptoms of illness, as well as monitor exercise and nutritional needs. Be sure to watch for mental changes in your children. A failure to thrive in any way in what one considers a healthy environment would be cause for concern.
What if your child does get sick? “Early in the morning, it is often difficult to decide whether or not your sick child can attend school,” our experts tell us. “Often, the way a child looks and acts can make the decision for you. Two major considerations are whether the child is comfortable enough to be able to participate fully in the school day and whether the child might spread a contagious condition to other children and staff.” If your child is contagious or unable to participate fully due to their illness, keep them at home.
Still don’t know if you should keep your child at home? Follow these guidelines from Talladega Pediatrics to help you decide:
- Fever: Any child with a temperature of 100 degrees or more should remain home until they have been without a fever for 24 hours.
- Diarrhea/Vomiting: Students should remain home until 24 hours has passed since their last episode of vomiting or diarrhea.
- Cough/Cold/Runny nose: Colds are usually self-limiting and children may attend school if they have a normal temperature and are feeling well enough to attend and participate. Coughing or runny nose associated with seasonal allergies or mild colds are not reasons to miss school. But if the child has ear pain, severe sore throat or difficulty breathing, take them to a doctor immediately and do not send them to school.
- Conjunctivitis/“Pink Eye”: A child with conjunctivitis or “pink eye” should not return to school until the drainage and redness have resolved or they have started treatment with antibiotic eye drops.
- Rashes: The source of a rash is often difficult to determine. Many common infectious diseases are most contagious in the early stages. A child with a serious rash should be evaluated by the primary health provider before returning to school. Mild rashes associated with contact allergies, eczema, or other chronic skin conditions should not prevent the child from attending school. Rashes that are blistered or draining should be evaluated by the child’s primary physician.
- Lice: If the child has active lice, he/she may return to school once they have been treated (proof of treatment should be sent with child) and evaluated in the school clinic and found to be free of live lice. The presence of nits does not prohibit the child from attending school, but should be addressed by combing with a comb specifically designed to remove nits.
- Strep: The child may return to school when they feel able to participate, are free of fever and have been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours.
There you have it – your complete guide to back-to-school health. As always, if you have any doubt about a child’s illness, contact your child’s physician.