WASHINGTON – The start of the school year is always followed by an uptick in sick children.
The reason is simple. Lots of kids in close contact pass a lot of germs.
Dr. Erik Schobitz, a pediatric emergency room physician at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, says the risk of colds, viruses and the like always goes up when children are concentrated in schools or day care centers.
Schobitz says there are some basic steps parents can take to keep their kids healthy and safe.
The first step is to teach them to sneeze into their elbows, not their hands.
“If they sneeze on their hands, they can pass a lot of these cold viruses,” says Schobitz.
Kids need to be reminded to wash their hands before eating and to never share drinks with their friends, Schobitz cautions. They also should be told never to swap hats because head lice spread easily in schools.
Parents need to be concerned about far more than germs. Schobitz says many children who end up in the emergency room during the school year are hurt on the playground.
“We see a lot of injuries from people falling off the monkey bars, and falling off the trampoline.”
Falls can result in broken bones and serious head injuries.
Schobitz says parents need to understand that falls of this kind “will pay your emergency room doctor’s mortgage.”
He also suggests getting children their flu shots as early as possible because the shots will protect them and vulnerable relatives.
“The major reason why adults get the flu is because the children have it. They are our reservoir for this,” says Schobitz.
If a child does get sick despite these precautions, Schobitz says there’s a simple rule of thumb for deciding whether to keep him home or send him to school.
“The way I look at it is to judge how your child looks. If your child looks miserable, they are not going to get anything out of school anyway.”
He says a child with a fever over 100.5 degrees should stay home, as should any child with an illness that can easily be passed to others.
The MayoClinic has more suggestions for keeping children healthy.