Back to School Infection Prevention

School supplies are on clearance, making way for Halloween and Christmas decorations; so obviously, it’s almost mid-August. Right about now your kids are oscillating between mourning summer’s end and the excitement of the new school year.

We’re asking ourselves how to best prepare for this upcoming transition: A new backpack? New shoes? An iPad?

I think the answer is simpler (and cheaper!) than that: infection prevention.

The American Psychology Association confirms studies dating waaaay back to the 1980s that have shown direct correlations between a person’s stressors, whether good or bad, and decreased immune function.

Of course, we will be throwing our stressed kids into a building filled with hundreds of other stressed kids! The “bugs” are waiting, fully prepared to seek out these weakened chinks in our child’s armor. They are banking on the fact that the close proximity of their “hosts” (our kids) will help them take over the world.

So, you can ask yourself one of two questions:

1. How much sick time did I save over the summer to use this fall as bacteria invade my home?
2. What can I do to prepare my children to battle these vicious little bugs?

I have five easy answers (everyone loves lists).

1. Hand-Washing
My first test in clinical nursing school was a skill demonstration of hand washing. Hand-washing is the number one way to break the chain of infection. Start modeling, teaching, reminding, and reinforcing hand-washing to your children. This will be your child’s first defense against those invading bugs.

2. Vampire Cough/Sneeze
Sprayed snot is really disgusting. No one can argue that. It’s filled with bacteria and viruses just waiting to land on your kids. Teach your children to “Dracula” those coughs (cough into upper arm/shoulder) and they will help protect their siblings, classmates, and you—bonus—from illness.

3. Immunizations
This is a topic that can fill a trillion blogs (and currently does) so I’m not going to enter that debate. Immunizations have been shown to protect the population from debilitating infection and disease. If you feel uncomfortable about immunizations, please talk to your child’s pediatrician. Many pediatricians are willing to partner with you to make a flexible plan for your infant, toddler, child, or teenager that can meet your comfort needs. Let’s not allow preventable diseases to enter our school systems, ok?

4. Sleep
Sleep helps bodies heal and increases immune function. It’s the perfect time to start getting serious again about sleeping habits and bedtimes. Fill up your child’s “sleep bank” before school starts. The National Sleep Foundation has the following recommendations:

Age Hours of Sleep needed in 24 hours
1-3 years 12-14 hours a day
3-5 years 11-13 hours a day
5-12 years 10-11 hours a day

5. Colorful Plates
If you keep the lunches colorful, with natural food and ingredients, you should be able give your kids the right sources of energy they need to build a great immune system. Explore Pinterest or Google for healthy box-lunch inspiration. With the internet, “I don’t know what to make” is no longer an excuse.

While this might seem oversimplified, health professionals keep repeating this advice because it’s effective if you follow it. So good luck. Let's stop those bugs before they can stop you!

Lizzy Froehle is a neonatal intensive care nurse and a mother of two, who blogs about the wonders and absurdities of parenthood at

Posted in Health Care | Related Topics: Children's Health  Preventative Care  Public Health 

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