Avoiding The “Back to School” Plague


Teachers call the annual upswing in illness the “Back to School Plague.” And with good reason:  on average, elementary school children get eight to 12 colds or cases of the flu each school year, according to the CDC.

Twenty-two million school days are lost each year due to the common cold. Thirty-eight million school days are missed annually due to influenza. Add in parental work days lost due to taking care of sick kids (and recovering from the cold/flu that the kids shared with you). That’s a whole lot of lost education and productivity – and way too much time spent feeling lousy.

Any shared space – schools, offices, gyms, etc. – facilitates germ transmission. Assuming you don’t have convenient access to a hermetically sealed bubble, you and your kids will catch some viral nasties. But you can lower the odds of infection by following a few simple guidelines.

Keep hands clean: Make sure your kids not only understand the importance of washing their hands, but also know how to wash their hands properly.  It takes a 15-20 minute scrub with soap and water to get hands clean – teach your children to sing “Happy Birthday” twice to time the process. Tuck some hand sanitizer into your kid’s backpack so they can swipe off germs without having to make a bathroom trip, too.  Clean hands can reduce the odds of infection with slew of germs, including colds, pink eye, and strep throat. Clean hands are a win for everyone, except the germs.

Stay away from the “fountain of filth”: Numerous studies have shown that drinking fountains harbor bacteria, with many having higher bacterial counts than the school toilets (sometimes significantly higher, as in a story reported by NPR where “The bacteria and mold count on the water fountain spigot was almost 1,000 times higher than the count on the toilet seat.”)  Kids should bring their own water bottles to school, and understand why its important not to let other kids drink directly from the bottle.

Sleep long, eat right: Rest helps to keep the immune system healthy and strong. Sleep experts say little kids should be getting 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night, teenagers 9 to 10. How do you know when your child isn’t getting enough sleep? If he or she frequently fall asleep while riding in the car, consistently has a really hard time getting out of bed in the morning, or often acts overtired/cranky during the day, you may wish to try to get him or her to bed earlier. Doctors note that kids who have a hard time failing asleep may actually be overtired, so don’t assume that a reluctance to sleep is a sign that the child is getting enough snooze time.

Stay home: Sick kids (and adults) should stay home when they are ill. Staying home allows the body to recover faster, and helps keep germs from spreading. But obviously no one can afford to stay home whenever they feel a bit under the weather. As a general rule, keep your child home when he or running a fever over 100 degrees, vomiting or having diarrhea. If you’re unsure about when to send your child to school or keep him or her home, telehealth services can be a big help. With a telehealth (sometimes called telemedicine) plan, you can talk with a doctor or nurse any time to get a professional opinion on your child’s health. No need to spend time with a sick kid sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, urgent care clinic or Emergency room – the doctor can diagnose and suggest treatment (even prescribe medication, if necessary) right over your phone, computer or tablet. Find out more about telemedicine plans here.

Healthy mouth, healthy body:  medical science continues to find links between overall health and oral health. And it makes sense that an immune system that is continually working to keep bacterial infections and decay in check will be less able to effectively attack colds and flu. Make sure to teach your kids how to brush and floss properly, and keep current with their dental exams and cleanings. For more on oral health best practices, see the :DentalPlans Dental Information Center.

Keep smiling: Studies have shown that smiling boosts your immune system. More smiles, less sickness – sounds like an excellent plan! Call us at 1-800-238-5163 to find out about how dental savings plans can help make quality dental care affordable.


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