Back-to-School Health Tips

It’s almost time for kids to go back to school, which means the risk of developing common illnesses (such as the common cold or flu) are also going to be ramping up. Below, Dr. Ali Ghahary has compiled some tips to parents make their child’s school year a healthy one.

On average, a child gets as many as 8 to 12 cold or flu viruses every school year — also commonly referred to by parents and teachers as the Back-to-School Plague. The most common reason that a child will develop a cold is due to the spread of bacteria and germs. This can be found on things like desks, a computer mouse or keyboard, door handles, and everything in between. As children tend to have habits such as nail biting, or rubbing their eyes, they are more likely to develop a bug. Children can also catch a cold or flu bug when coming into contact with a peer who is already sick. Because children’s immune systems are much weaker than adults, they are therefore much more susceptible to germs and viruses. However, there are some steps that parents can take to try and reduce the risk of this happening.

First and foremost, make sure you teach your child the importance of hygiene — and to practice it with them too. Hands should be washed with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. By washing hands regularly, this prevents the spread of germs. In some instances, hand-washing may not always be immediately possible, so try to have your child keep hand sanitizer (or sanitizing wipes) on hand if they are able, as this can also help fight against bacteria. If any of your child’s peers are sick, try to have them avoid contact with them as much as possible. If your child gets sick, it may be beneficial to keep them home from school for a few days. If they’re feeling well enough to go but still have symptoms of a common cold, such as coughing or sneezing, always make sure to remind them to cough with their mouth covered, and sneeze into a tissue. This will help prevent the spread of germs.

Prior to sending your child back to school, it may be a good idea to have them see their physician for a check-up, and to also make sure they have all the necessary vaccinations. Grade 6 students are offered different vaccinations including the chickenpox vaccine, hepatitis vaccine, as well as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine; while Grade 9 students are offered the meningococcal quadrivalent vaccine, tetanus vaccine, diphtheria vaccine, and pertussis vaccine. These specific vaccinations are often held through clinics at public schools and are administered for free. Some children, especially those with chronic health issues, may also require additional vaccines. So that you know which vaccines your child has received and in order to keep track of all future vaccinations, it’s recommended that you keep a list and store it in a safe spot. You can find more information on vaccines via Immunize BC.

Bugs and vaccinations aren’t the only thing parents and children need to worry about as back-to-school season starts. With school comes increased activity, such as during PE class or on recess. This also means that family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary will be seeing an increase in school-related injuries, such as minor scrapes or wounds, to more severe lacerations, sprains and broken bones, as well as head injuries such as concussions. Typically, minor scrapes and wounds can be treated by keeping the area clean and applying Polysporin to the affected area. Lacerations that are more severe and deeper may require stitches. Sometimes it may be difficult to tell the difference between a very severe sprain and a broken bone. In this instance, your child may need an X-ray to determine what, if any, bones have been broken. When it comes to head injuries, concussions can be severe and sometimes have long-lasting effects. Signs of a concussion may include temporary loss of consciousness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, and even amnesia…and that’s not even the full list of symptoms. If you suspect that your child has suffered a concussion, it’s important to seek medical treatment for them right away.

Visit HealthLink BC for more great back-to-school health tips, as well as tips on how to teach your child healthy eating habits.

Originally published at on August 22, 2018.



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Dr. Ali Ghahary

Dr. Ali Ghahary

Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.