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How to Have a Healthy Start to School

Follow these tips to help your child avoid upper respiratory infections.



Even if your child has been the epitome of health from birth, when pre-school starts, so do the runny noses. Unfortunately, along with all the pros of your little one starting school – socialization and stimulation – come cons, and the upper respiratory infection is one of these.

Common colds are caused by viruses and are often called URIs (upper respiratory infections) because they infect the nose, ears and throat but not the lungs (lower respiratory tract). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the cold is the most common upper respiratory infection that young children get – especially those who have recently started school. Colds are generally viral, but they can lead to secondary infections that are usually bacterial and may require antibiotics.

Remember, though, that this doesn’t necessarily mean that your child’s run-of-the-mill common cold is going to be complicated by a secondary infection, for example, tonsillitis, sinusitis or an ear infection. The AAP says it’s often just a runny nose, a low-grade temperature and a miserable child for a few days. Only if your child doesn’t cope with the cold may it develop into a full-blown infection.

On average, preschool children get eight to 12 colds or cases of the flu each school year, according to the Center for Disease Control.

But there are simple ways to keep your kids healthy. When my daughter started preschool, her pediatrician talked to her about healthy habits at her summer checkup. He discussed the importance of frequent hand washing, sneezing and coughing into her elbow and not sharing food and drinks with other kids. Honestly, these were all things we had talked about with her before, but something about them coming from a doctor just stuck, and she actually remembered. We also hooked antibacterial gels on her backpack. After all that, she still got sick…but only a few minor sniffles and one case of strep throat.

The AAP says sicknesses related to starting school are really just something to be expected. But there are a few danger zones to warn your little ones about.

You may think bathrooms are the germiest places in school, but those actually get disinfected and cleaned quite often. The number one germiest place in schools is actually the drinking fountain. It’s the perfect spot for kids to ingest microorganisms as they put their mouths on the stream of water – or right on the fountain itself.

The AAP suggests teaching students to run the water a little first and then drink. Or better yet, children should bring their own water bottles to school and not share them with anyone.

Cafeteria trays are another germ hot zone, as they don’t always get wiped down really well. The AAP recommends that kids bring the tray to their table and then use hand sanitizer before they pick up their food.

Other things to keep in mind when it comes to staying healthy are sleep, diet and exercise. According to the CDC, school-age children should get 10 to 11 hours of sleep every night. Sleep deprivation lowers the immune system’s ability to fight off infection.

Exercise is another effective way to keep kids healthy. The AAP suggests a daily dose of 40 minutes of active time. Your child’s diet also plays an important role in warding off illness. Foods rich in vitamin C don’t keep colds away altogether, but they can shorten the length of a cold.

While the AAP stresses the importance of healthy habits, it also points out that there is a real delicate balance when it comes to germs. We don’t want to make kids paranoid, but rather prudent. Germs for people who are healthy really aren’t a big deal.

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