Preventing the spread of illnesses in school

With children back in school and adapting to the new normal, there may be a risk of them falling sick due to contact with other children. Why is this a common occurrence and what can parents do to keep their children healthy? Here’s how to prevent the spread of illnesses in school!

Why children are more likely to fall sick when in school

Attending childcare and school exposes a child to many other children, which invariably increases the risk of exposure to germs. This is particularly so in younger children, whose immune systems are still maturing.

In addition, children at a young age may still be drooling, or have a tendency to put their hands in their mouths (this is common even in older children – e.g. biting nails). Habits like these, as well as sharing common objects such as toys or books, or touching other children during play, increase their chances of catching an infection.

Common infections in schools and childcares include:

  • The common cold
  • Influenza
  • Hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD)
  • Chickenpox
  • Gastroenteritis (commonly known as stomach flu)
  • Conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye).

Keeping your children from falling sick

There are preventive measures parents can take, to reduce the likelihood of children falling ill. These include

1. Practising good personal hygiene. Teach your kids to wash their hands properly and often, especially before eating and after toileting; and the proper etiquette for sneezing or coughing (i.e. covering their mouth and nose with their hand or a tissue, and washing their hands after). Avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth. Remind them to not share drinking cups or eating utensils at school.

2. Stay home if they are sick. Before sending your kids to school, always check their temperature first at home. If they are not feeling well, keeping them at home will reduce the chance of spreading germs to other children. Also, as their own immunity system is also compromised, they should stay at home to rest and recuperate.

3. Make sure that their vaccinations are up to date.  Influenza (also known as flu) vaccination is sometimes neglected by parents due to the misconception that flu is just a common cold or equates to having a runny nose. In actual fact, the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness.

The Ministry of Health of Singapore recommends all children aged 6 months to 5 years of age to have a flu vaccination every year or season.

4. Strengthen your child’s immunity by ensuring that they get enough sleep (most toddlers and young children need 10-13 hours of sleep in a day), get lots of exercise or outdoor time, and eat a well balanced diet, which will provide your child antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E beta-carotene and zinc.

Dr Tan Zhen Han - General Paediatrician

Dr Tan Zhen Han
Consultant Paediatrician
SBCC Baby and Child Clinic (Bukit Panjang)

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