Back-to-School Tips for Avoiding Illness


Back-to-school season for many is an exciting time for children to reconnect with friends, meet new ones, and experience opportunities for growth and learning.

It is also a time when parents dread the viruses and bacteria that come with school being back in session. Germs take advantage of young people in indoor settings and regain footholds during the fall and winter as colder temperatures arrive.

Munson Healthcare Chief Medical, Quality, and Safety Officer Joe Santangelo, M.D., shares that hand hygiene and up-to-date vaccinations continue to be key strategies to keep viruses in check in children and adults teaching those children.

“Proper handwashing, as well as covering coughs and sneezes, are really important ways to keep viruses from spreading from classrooms to home environments,” he said. “Just as important is to be sure your children are up to date on their vaccinations, which helps prevent many childhood illnesses.”

  • Dr. Santangelo, a pediatrician, said parents should check with their child’s provider to ensure shots are up to date and schedule an appointment if they are not.
  • Research shows that handwashing with soap and water is the simplest and best way to deal with germs and avoid getting sick. Students should wash their hands before eating, after using the restroom, and after blowing their nose or sneezing.
  • If a child needs to cough or sneeze, teach them to cough into a tissue or into an elbow if a tissue is not available. They should wash their hands after coughing.
  • A healthy lifestyle can prevent or minimize many common illnesses. Dr. Santangelo suggests providing a healthy diet for young scholars with fresh fruit and vegetables and plenty of water. They also should be getting a good night’s sleep.
  • This year, vaccinations are recommended to prevent COVID-19 and the flu. An RSV vaccine is also going to be available for adults. Look for additional information and increased availability later this month and into October. 

As the school season unfolds, Dr. Santangelo advises parents to first contact their provider with any non-emergent issues that arise.

“For any non-life-threatening situation or question about your child, always start with your primary care provider since they know you and your child the best,” Dr. Santangelo said. “They can help direct you to an urgent care or virtual urgent care if that is needed. And the Emergency Room is always there for true emergencies.”

Munson Healthcare continues to offer its Ask-A-Nurse service for those who need help determining the appropriate place for care, too. Ask-A-Nurse can be reached at 231-935-0951.