DENVER – As kids head back to school, most of them are bound to catch a cold or two. But there is a way to help fight off the back-to-school bug.
“This time of year — the late summer, early fall — is when we tend to see some viruses called enteroviruses, sometimes we see hand-foot-and-mouth disease this time of year,” said Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy.
Below are four tips to help prevent children from getting sick:
1. Stay current with vaccines
Herlihy’s first piece of advice for parents is to stay up-to-date on vaccines.
“Vaccines really work directly with the immune system to really build up those cells and antibodies that kids need to protect themselves from infections,” Herlihy said.
According to Herlihy, vaccines can create healthier environments at school, and they can prevent diseases like measles, mumps, whooping cough and chicken pox from entering the building.
When it comes to the flu shot, she suggests all parents vaccinate their children before flu season strikes.
“The flu shot is not quite ready yet this time of year but probably within the next month or two,” Herlihy said.
2. Wash hands regularly
She also recommends that children regularly wash their hands. This is especially important before meals, after using the bathroom and every time they start and stop an activity.
“Washing hands is really important because we all have a habit — and kids especially — of touching our faces,” Herlihy said.
While you’re at it, she suggests regularly sanitizing your child’s school supplies too.
3. Promote healthy habits
“That’s going to be things like healthy eating, active living,” Herlihy said.
Herlihy says it is important for children to continue healthy habits they picked up over the summer, including getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly and drinking plenty of water.
“Especially in our dry Colorado high altitude climate, that’s particularly important for us here,” she said.
4. Keep sick children home from school
Herlihy emphasizes the importance of keeping sick children home from school until they are well enough to go back.
“Typically our guideline is that a kid should stay home from school for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone,” she said.
The hope is to keep infectious germs out of the classroom so no other kids pick them up.
“We know those germs are going to be there. And really what we want to try [to] do is prevent transmission as much as possible between kids,” Herlihy said.