Keeping kids healthy during first week of school challenging

Hand-washing is first defense, doctor says

HOUSTON – Kids have their lunch packed up and their boots tied tight, but keeping germs away can be a parent's biggest fight.

"It comes in like clockwork every fall," said Dr. Irvin Sulapas, of Baylor College of Medicine.

Teachers and students bring home more than homework this time of year. After a summer away from other kids, Sulapas said, their immune systems are shocked when everyone goes back to class.

Sulapas' first suggestion to stay healthy is for parents to send their children to school with hand sanitizer.

"If you have that hand sanitizer that has antibacterial, that can be used instead of traditional soap and water," Sulapas said.

Plus, flu vaccines are soon arriving at clinics, and Sulapas said parents and kids should be vaccinated.

"It takes about two weeks after the flu vaccine to be prepared for the flu," Sulapas said. "It's a long season, so I always recommend getting it as soon as you can."

His top suggestion to avoid getting sick is probably so simple parents might not take it seriously, but teaching proper hand-washing can save a trip to the doctor.

"If they wash their hands and they sing 'Happy Birthday' twice, that's about 30 seconds and that's about the time I recommend to adequately wash their hands," Sulapas said.

Sulapas said people should use their elbow when they sneeze or cough to avoid getting germs on their hand and spreading them.