The Back-To-School Plague



Picture courtesy of Google

Nikita Kheni, Photojournalist

As students are transitioning into school, the flu is transitioning into the season.

Elementary school children get 8 to 12 colds or cases of the flu each school year on average, and for the older kids, it is about half that according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). Schools inherently foster the transmission of infections from person to person because schools are a group setting where staff and students are in close contact, and it is a place where supplies and equipment are shared.

Dr. Harley Rotbart, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado and author of the book “Germ Proof Your Kids” states, “It is stunning how many times kids touch their faces and then touch other kids. This is a very touchy-feely demographic, and that’s how we share germs. …And the little ones don’t have the same exposure to germs that we do, so until their immune systems get built up, they get sick.”

Schools have many hot zones for germs and the germiest place is not the bathroom, it’s the drinking fountain. It is the perfect spot for kids to ingest these microorganisms as they put their mouths on the stream of water — or right on the fountain spout itself. Dr. Rotbart suggests teaching students to run the water a little first and then drink, or better yet, to bring their own water bottle to school and not share them with anyone.

Cafeteria trays are also another hot zone. The trays do not get wiped down nearly as well, and students are recommended to use hand sanitizer after they pick up their food. The balance is delicate though. Kids should not be paranoid, they should be prudent. Germs for people who are healthy are not a big deal, but when it comes to those who are not, that’s when it gets bigger.

Students should be getting 10-11 hours of sleep each night because deprivation lowers the immune system’s ability to fight off infection. Exercising and diet also plays an important role in warding off illness. There are many foods rich in vitamin C that don’t keep colds away altogether, but they can shorten the length of a cold according to CNN

With the increased pressure of good grades, homework, and lack of sleep, older students often come to school sick, and that gets others sick. Even teachers tend to get sick because of stress and still come to teach even though they know that interacting with students will create more absences. Keeping healthy can prevent that.

Every year, about 5%–20% of the U.S. population acquire the seasonal influenza (flu). More than 200,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die from influenza. Young children and students are among the populations at greatest risk for serious complications. The virus is spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing, and sometimes it can just be by touching a surface or object that has flu viruses on it.

The best ways to prevent seasonal flu is to get a seasonal flu vaccination each year and follow proper respiratory and hand hygiene steps and etiquette (CDC).

Flu shots are available now at almost all drug stores and pharmacies. CVS, Rite-Aid, Target, and Walgreens have a walk-in to get flu shots in their pharmacies; in fact, Kaiser Permanente has a drive-thru. Ask your doctor or physician on tips to stay healthy and flu-free for the season.