How to help your kids steer clear of back-to-school bugs

Back-to-school time is just around the corner for more than 500,000 students across Utah, but  new friends and new classes also mean new germs.
From the common cold to creepy crawling head lice, health officials have confirmed some gross bugs spreading around the state.  That is why they are asking parents to consider taking some extra safety measures to help students stay healthy this upcoming school year.
“Children are little germ factories, and they are in a very close proximity all day long…” said Dr. Dagmar Vitek, Medical Director for Salt Lake County Health Dept.  “They touch the same foods, the same water bottles, the same toys,” Vitek explained. 
Vitek says that is why children tend to get sick more than adults do, especially during the school year.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report the average American elementary school student comes down with 12  colds or flu cases every year.  
With Davis, Canyons and countless other school districts starting up again before the month is over, officials say now is the time to start fighting germs. 
“Please parents, get your children vaccinated,” Vitek said. 
Data shows more parents are opting out of important immunizations for personal reasons, but Dagmar says it the trend is putting schools at risk. 
“[Also,] they need to wash their hands really often,” both before and after mealtime, according to Vitek, as cafeteria trays can carry a lot more than just lunch.
And kids need their vitamins and minerals — vitamin B boosts energy, calcium grows strong bones, and iron is good for blood cells, but Vitek says you can also skip the supplements by helping kids eat healthy.
“Make sure that your children have breakfast before they go to school,” she added. 
Another concern — those often-overlooked dental exam. 
Oral health specialists say unclean teeth cause people pain and  problems all the time.
“If there’s a lot of decay in the child’s mouth, that will carry on to the adult mouth, because bacteria really don’t change throughout the life,” said Maria Melnik from Roseman University.
Finally, the transition back into structure — rigorous coursework, and overbooked extracurricular activities — can be tough on today’s teens especially.  Experts recommend nine to ten hours of sleep every night. 
“It helps them to be healthier.  They can concentrate better, they perform better,” Vitek said of ample sleep. 
Finally,  studies show drinking fountains and water bottles can be germ-infested, so wash water bottles often, and experts suggest asking your kids not to share.

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