The end of August means the beginning of school, and the beginning of school means a lot of things, including sick kids and sick kids getting other kids sick.
But there are ways to prevent that.
And there are also good reasons to, one of which comes courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Nearly 22 million and 38 million school days are lost each year because of colds and the flu, respectively.
And guess who's going to lose work days along with them?
Dr. Margaret Khoury is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente's Baldwin Park Medical Center, where she says she's known as "the Flu Queen." She says infections will happen, but are less likely with some preventive action.
"Prevention, prevention, prevention," she said. "That's the most important part. Take good care of yourself and your children."
She says she can't overemphasize how important it is for kids to wash their hands.
"Hand-washing is of the utmost importance," she said, especially when kids get home from school or are handling food. "Eating healthy, making sure kids get enough rest. Sleep is important in children." That means, she says, no marathon homework sessions until midnight.
It also means avoiding sick people, drinking plenty of fluids and regular exercise (unless you're sick – then "you don't want to overdo that part," says Khoury).
One of the doctor's lessons also goes against one of the values kids learn early on – kind of.
"At school, it's important to make sure kids avoid sharing stuff, especially cups," Khoury said. "They should be using straws if they need to share the cup, and then washing their hands."
She also encourages everyone – kids and adults alike – to get their flu vaccines.
"Everyone should be vaccinated starting at age six months," she said. "We as a society should take care of each other.
"There are plenty of flu vaccines everywhere," Khoury continued. "A lot of public health clinics carry it free of charge … so there's really no excuse to not get the flu vaccine."
Photo by Amanda Westmont via Flickr Creative Commons.