HOUSTON -

Experts say elementary school children get up to 12 colds or cases of the flu each school year.

Many parents and teachers refer to it as the back-to-school plague; but, there are ways to keep your kids healthy.

The start of the school year is always an exciting time; but, sharing classrooms with lots of children can also lead to health problems. That's because when children are younger, they touch their faces, mouths and noses and then touch other kids, which is how they pick up all kinds of germs, like colds, pink eye and strep throat.

So what can you do to protect your little ones?

Avoid the water fountain.

According to the National Sanitation Foundation, the spigot in the classroom and cafeteria fountains are the top two places when it comes to most bacteria per square inch.

So instead, have your child bring their own water bottles to school and ask them not to share with anyone.

Don't forget to pack the hand sanitizer. You'll want your little ones to use it, especially before eating their lunch. Cafeteria trays are another hot bed of nasty germs.

Also, make sure your child gets enough rest to keep the immune system healthy. Sleep experts say 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night is the best.

While things can get busy, especially in the morning, try to make morning nutrition a routine.

A good nutritious breakfast, including Vitamin C, can build energy and resistance to germs.