Preventing Illnesses During the School Year

The start of the new school year brings new teachers, friends and, yes, germs. Children spend a lot of time together in close quarters during the school year. This increases the chance for exposure to cold, influenza and other illnesses. Families can make sure children are up-to-date with vaccinations, ensure a healthy immune system by eating a good diet, and making sure children have a good night’s sleep. There are other ways to reduce the numbers of sick days your child faces.

  • Practice hand washing: Studies show that hand washing can reduce absenteeism. It is an effective way of preventing the spread of colds, influenza, pink eye and more. Teach a child to wash hands often with soap and warm water, especially before eating, after blowing the nose and after using the bathroom. Also make sure they wash properly by rubbing soap on hand, fingers and under nails for 30 seconds before rinsing with warm water. If soap and water are not available, alcohol based hand sanitizers or hand wipes can be used.
  • Encourage covering coughs and sneezes. Viruses can become airborne on droplets of saliva when someone sneezes or coughs. Many children sneeze or cough on a hand, which can spread illnesses to others. Teach the child to cover a sneeze or cough with a tissue or the inside of their elbow.
  • Avoid touching the T zone: Encourage a child to avoid the area around the mouth, nose and eyes. If a child touches something that someone with a cold has touched, then touches their eyes, nose or mouth, the cold virus will enter their system. Infections such as conjunctivitis (pink eye) can also be transmitted through toughing eyes after touching an infected object.
  • Avoid sharing cups and utensils: Sharing is a trait taught at a young age. But some things should not be shared among friends, especially during the cold and flu season. Viruses and bacteria are easily transmitted through saliva.

For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 35 clinics in 14 counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.  Construction of ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton and ThedaCare Medical Center – Shawano is underway. For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

By Lesley Fuerst, APNP, ThedaCare Physicians-New London