Fighting germs 101: Tips for a healthy start to the school year and beyond

  • Article by: MARY MEEHAN , Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader
  • Updated: August 12, 2013 - 2:55 PM

Here are some tips for a healthy start to the school year and beyond.

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Downey Regional Medical Center RN Connie Meinke holds a syringe filled with the flu vaccine before injecting a fellow employee on January 17, 2013. Like many hospitals across the U.S., the Downey, California, facility is preparing for the flu onslaught. The hospital is asking all of their employees to be vaccinated. (Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1133860

Photo: Mark Boster • Los Angeles Times,

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Whether your child is going off to college for the first time or entering kindergarten, schools seem to be incubators for illness. Before the school year starts, and even after it does, here are a few things you should know about keeping your child safe and healthy.

Before school starts

College students

• Students planning to live on campus probably will need up-to-date immunizations, including the meningococcal (meningitis) vaccine. Check with a primary care doctor and the school to determine which vaccines are needed.

• Students who smoke or have a history of asthma, diabetes, liver disease or immune suppression also should consider a pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine.

• Physicians may recommend the HPV vaccine for females and males up to age 26.

• The flu vaccine is recommended for children and adults, especially college students living in dorms. It typically becomes available in September or October.

For students in kindergarten to 12th grade

• Before entering school, many jurisdictions require proof of a preventive health care examination, an eye examination and a dental screening.

• Check with your primary care doctor for required vaccines. Children must show proof of vaccinations or file a legal exemption with the school. A chart for different age groups may be found at the Minnesota Department of Health, www.health.state.mn.us. Click on “Immunizations.”

• Students planning to participate in sports should schedule a sports physical.

• An annual physical can help identify and track potential health concerns.

Once school starts

• Encourage children of all ages to wash their hands, especially after using the bathroom. Provide hand sanitizer for when kids can’t access soap and water.

• Tell your child not to share cups and utensils and to clean his or her hands after using communal tools, such as scissors.

• Not contributing to the germy environment is important, so encourage others to cover their cough.

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