Kids encounter multiple viruses at the start of a new school year. Here are some ways parents can fight germs and stay healthy, too.

Family Health, Your Health | 19 days ago

Back-to-School? How Parents Can Stay Healthy, Too

Kids encounter multiple viruses at the start of a new school year. Here are some ways parents can fight germs and stay healthy, too. 

All around us, kids are going back to school. Whether it’s bringing a tear to your eye or a sigh of relief, the start of a new school year impacts everyone.

There will be homework to help with, social situations to navigate and – of course – plenty of back-to-school germs to go around.

You know how it goes. One of your kids gets sick. Then another. It’s only a matter of time before it hits you, too.

According to Joshua Hall, DO, a family medicine doctor at Atrium Health Cabarrus Family Medicine, young children encounter all sorts of illnesses at the start of each new year. This includes multiple viruses that cause cold symptoms and stomach bugs, as well as strep throat, skin infections, lice and – woof – the flu. That’s a lot of sicknesses to avoid.

You’re prepared to do what it takes to keep your kids healthy, but what will you do for yourself?

6 Tips for Staying Healthy at the Start of the School Year

Get back on a schedule.

When your kids are on summer vacation, it’s easy to pretend like you are, too. From late-night movies to sugary treats, summertime is full of wonderful things – that might not be so great for your immune system in the long run.

“It’s always beneficial to get everyone back on a routine and to make sure you’re all getting enough sleep and eating a balanced, healthy diet,” says Dr. Hall.

The amount of sleep a person needs varies by individual and age. Dr. Hall says to aim for around 9 to 11 hours of sleep a night for school age children, and 8 to 10 hours for teens. And for you, 7 or more hours a night is a good place to start.

Teach your kids proper handwashing.

Your kids might be the primary germ carriers this time of year, but it’s up to you to teach them how to wash their hands the right way and keep their germs from spreading.

“Children are never too young to learn these habits, and being a role model for them is a great way to help them learn,” says Dr. Hall.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure your kids are washing their hands with soap and clean water for around 20 seconds. That’s about the same amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice or the “ABCs” once, says Dr. Hall. If you don’t have clean water – like when you’re in the carpool line or watching a weekend football game – keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer close by for backup.

Oh, and if your kids sneeze or cough? Make sure it’s into their sleeves, not their hands – or your face. 

Stop it from spreading.

At some point this school year, despite your best efforts, your kids are likely to catch at least one cold or bug. While caring for them, do what you can to prevent the rest of the family from catching it.

Take the right precautions when preparing food, suggests Dr. Hall, and keep the sick child in their room, so their contagious germs don’t spread throughout the house.

And as Dr. Hall says, “A little bit of disinfectant goes a long way.”

Know when to stay home.

If your child has symptoms that prevent them from comfortably participating at school, you know to keep them home.

If they have a fever or an illness that’s contagious, you know to keep them home.

So why, as adults, do we push through our illnesses like the same rules don’t apply to us? Dr. Hall says if your sickness is getting in the way of work or has the potential to spread through the office, you should do yourself and your colleagues a favor and stay home.

Get vaccinated.

According to Dr. Hall, vaccinations and immunizations are some of your best lines of defense all year long.

“Make sure your entire family is immunized before going back to school,” he says. “Vaccinations are one of the best ways to protect your family from certain diseases.”

The flu shot is a great example of something that could protect your family in a huge way.

Find a primary care provider.

Whether it’s a pediatrician for your kids, an internal medicine doctor just for you or a family medicine doctor for everyone, Dr. Hall says having a primary care provider can help you get and stay healthy year-round.  

With a family doctor like Dr. Hall, if you all get sick at once, you can rest assured you have one person you know and trust with your entire family’s needs. “There’s no replacement for establishing a relationship with a family physician who can help guide your entire family as they grow, develop and move through all phases and changes of life,” adds Dr. Hall.

Still dreading those back-to-germs? As your kids get older, their immune systems will build, and they’ll be less likely to catch certain illnesses. Which is great news for you and your paid time off.

Want a primary care doctor in time for the school year? Search by zip to find one near you.