Why Kids Get Sick When They Go Back To School - deebo

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    May 13, 2024 5 min read

    New clothes, new backpacks, and supplies. Sending kids back to school is usually a time for fun and excitement. Unfortunately, kids are also more likely to get sick during the first few weeks of school. After a summer away, kids are back in close quarters with their classmates. What kinds of illnesses can you expect, and can you do anything to prevent your child from getting sick? What should you keep at home to care for illnesses associated with returning to school?

    Why Do Kids Get Sick When They Go Back To School?

    There's no single reason that kids get sick during back-to-school season. However, mingling with new classmates creates the perfect environment to spread and pick up viruses and bacteria. The start of the school year also coincides with fall allergy symptoms, so it can feel like your kiddo is getting sick a lot.

    What Types Of Illnesses Can Parents Expect?

    Parents should expect common contagious illnesses when school gets started. Viruses and bacteria are usually spread through direct skin-to-skin contact or inhaling droplets after a person with an active infection coughs or sneezes. These often include respiratory infections gastrointestinal illnesses, and some parasitic infections like head lice.

    Symptoms of the most common back-to-school illnesses include:

    • Common colds: runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, and low-grade fever.
    • COVID-19: Loss of sense of smell or taste, sneezing, cough, fever, difficulty breathing
    • Stomach bugs: Viral or bacterial gastroenteritis can cause symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and nausea. Proper hand hygiene is crucial to prevent its spread.
    • Strep Throat: Sore throat, fever, white patches at the back of the throat
    • Head lice: Scalp scratching, visible small, rice-sized white lice in the hair or on the scalp.
    • Fall Allergies: Itchy nose, eyes, or throat; Clear runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes

    Can You Prevent Back-To-School Illnesses?

    You may not be able to stop your child from becoming sick, but you can put preventive measures in place. Teach good hygiene habits at home so your child can continue them at school.


    • Hand-washing – Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
    • Cough Etiquette – Teach your child to cough into their elbow or sleeve
    • Don't share utensils or cups
    • Don't share hats, hair ties, etc., to avoid lice

    Healthy Foods

    • Good nutrition promotes overall healthy growth and development, including the immune system.
    • Lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
    • Lean Proteins like fish and chicken
    • Yogurt contains probiotics to promote a healthy gut
    • Avoid heavily processed foods and added sugar


    • Sleep Gives the body time to rest and boosts the immune system
    • The optimal amount of sleep your child needs varies by age.
      • Pre-schoolers (3-5 years): 10 to 13 hours (including naps) per 24-hour period
      • School-aged children (6-12 years): 9 to 12 hours of sleep (not including naps)
      • Teens: 8 to 10 hours per 24-hour period

    Keep Vaccines Up to Date

    • Talk to your pediatrician to make sure your child receives all recommended childhood vaccines
    • Influenza – Most offices start offering Flu vaccines in early September. The vaccine won't prevent all cases of influenza, but it will lessen the severity of symptoms.
    • Covid-19 – COVID continues to evolve, and so do the vaccines. Make sure you stay up to date.

    Stress Management

    • Changes in routine are stressful, and back-to-school time is full of them.
    • Talk with your child and encourage them to open up about how they’re feeling.

    How To Be A Better Partner With Your Doctor's Office

    The relationship between you and your healthcare provider should be based on respect and trust. It's an active relationship that requires time, attention, and good communication. Your pediatrician knows children's health in general, but you are the expert on your child's daily health and wellness needs. Some of the best ways to become a better partner with your pediatrician include:

    • Communication:Find out your provider's preferred method for communication. Do they prefer a phone call, email, or messaging through a health app?
    • Come prepared: A great way to prepare is by keeping track of your child's symptoms. When did they start? What time of day do symptoms get worse or better? What medications or other treatments have you tried? Write it all down or open a note on your phone. This is great especially if you've got a kid who seems to be constantly falling ill. Just keep a running list of when your child gets sick, the treatments, and responses to those treatments.
    • Listen and ask questions: Once your healthcare provider examines your child, they should have a good idea of what's going on. Listen carefully and ask questions if you need help understanding or have concerns about anything they recommend.
    • Ask for the treatment plan in writing: Many healthcare providers do this automatically. However, if you don't receive a summary of care at the end of your visit, ask for one. It's easy to think you understand the plan perfectly well while you're in the room with the doctor, only to leave and wonder, "What did we decide?"

    If you don't feel comfortable or respected, it's okay to look into changing providers. Your family deserves a professional willing to work with you to achieve optimal health and wellness.

    The Back-to-School Home Medicine Cabinet

    Stock your home medicine cabinet with age-appropriate items for minor medical concerns. A well-stocked family medicine cabinet includes:

    1. First-Aid Kit
      • Adhesive bandages (various sizes)
      • Sterile gauze pads and adhesive tape
      • Antiseptic wipes or solution
      • Tweezers and scissors
      • Instant cold and heat packs
    2. Thermometer: A thermometer helps you determine if your child is running a fever
    3. Otoscope: This handy tool lets you examine your child's ears, nose, and throat for signs of infection or when they tell you they just put something up their nose
    4. Medications
      • Pain relievers/fever reducers (e.g., acetaminophen or ibuprofen)
      • Antihistamine for allergies (age-appropriate)
      • Hydrocortisone cream (1% for mild skin irritations)
      • Antibacterial ointment (e.g., Neosporin)
      • Calamine lotion (for itching)
      • A dosing chart for common medications - many pediatricians offer these
    5. Medical Information
      • Emergency contact list
      • Copies of important medical records and prescriptions
      • List of allergies and medical conditions for family members
      • Poison Control Number - 800-222-1222. Every household should have this number readily available.

    It's common for kids to catch a cold or other mild illness during the first few weeks of school. Prevention measures such as good hand hygiene, a healthy diet, and a sleep routine may help avoid some coughs and colds. However, a well-stocked family medicine cabinet ensures you're prepared and ready to treat the most common symptoms when they do occur. Tools such as the thermometer and otoscope empower you to make informed decisions and be a better partner with your pediatrician's office.