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Ways to keep students healthy

Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...

How to avoid common illnesses

It's back-to-school time. Unfortunately, with the start of the school year often comes the onset of contagious illnesses -- particularly in young children. Read on to learn about how to keep your kids as healthy as possible.

girl in front of school

When a child starts kindergarten, preschool or daycare, it may seem to the family that their little one is sick all the time. This is normal as each child must build up their immune system. Resistance to infection comes only after exposure to a multitude of germs. Fortunately, as kids get older, they gradually become less prone to common illnesses and recover more quickly when they do get sick.

Encourage proper handwashing

Handwashing is the number one way to prevent common contagious diseases such as colds, stomach flu and pinkeye. Kids should wash their hands before eating food and after using the toilet. Handwashing is also essential after touching animals or garbage, after playing in sand or water with other children, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

Teach kids the proper way to wash their hands. It's important that they use warm water and soap, rub hands together to create a lather and continue rubbing for at least 20 seconds. Encourage children to pay attention to the areas between fingers, around nail beds, under fingernails, on the back of hands and up the wrists. Singing or humming twice through the Happy Birthday song while washing hands will let small children know when they have washed long enough. After washing, kids (and adults) should rinse their hands thoroughly and dry their hands with a clean paper (or single-use cloth) towel. Sink faucets and bathroom door handles are usually covered in germs. Show kids how to turn off the tap water (and open the bathroom door) using a towel. When soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer is a must.

Proper hand-washing should be an early lesson >>

Keep students home when they are sick

It's often difficult for parents to decide when a child actually should stay home from school. Though attendance in school is important, it's even more important to keep our children healthy. Follow these guidelines to determine when your child should stay home from school.

Fever — If your child has a temperature of 101 degrees F or higher, keep him/her home from school. Fever is usually a sign of the flu or infection.

Diarrhea and vomiting — If your child has experienced diarrhea or vomiting twice or more in the last 24 hours, keep him/her home from school. Keep your child hydrated with plenty of fluids.

Sore throat — Sore throat can be due to a mild cold or to something more serious, such as strep throat. If your child has a sore, red throat, take him/her to the doctor. Antibiotics may be necessary.

Pinkeye — If your child has pinkeye symptoms (pus redness and swelling), keep him/her home from school for the first 24 hours after you begin treatment (usually eye drops).

Severe cough and cold — Severe cold symptoms could stem from bronchitis, pneumonia, whooping cough or a number of other conditions. Keep your children out of school and see a doctor if their cold symptoms are anything more than mild. With a mild cold, the cough should be seldom and the nasal drainage should be clear.

Rashes — A rash could be the sign of a number of contagious diseases — including chicken pox. If your child has a rash, make sure he/she is diagnosed and approved to return to school by a doctor.

Quiz: Test your cold and flu prevention smarts >>

Don't skip wellness visits

To prevent a number of childhood illnesses, keep your children's immunizations up-to-date and make sure they have regular physical check-ups. Don't skip routine wellness visits. At these visits, your doctor can conduct a physical examination and run blood work if necessary, as well as track their height, weight and development.

Read about vaccines for teens >>

More about kids' health

How is your child's germ etiquette?
Sick child: Questions to ask your pediatrician
Tips to keep your kids healthy at school

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