HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Germs spread like wildfire once all the kids are back in school.
Colds, pink eye, and strep are some of the most common illnesses that spread once school starts, especially with the younger kids. And Dr. Dennis Rhoades with Doctor's Care says it's not hard to imagine how it happens. "They have a runny nose, they don't blow their nose properly, they don't wash their hands appropriately. Then, ya know, hey can you lend me a pen?"
Dr. Rhoades recommends you teach your kids some healthy habits to prevent them from getting sick and then bringing those germs home to you. First, avoid the water fountain. Instead, give your kids water bottles to take to school. And teach them to use hand sanitizer along with washing their hands.
"I love the fact that they have all these wonderful hand sanitizers now," says Dr. Rhoades. "Give your child a hand sanitizer and clip it to the back of their backpack. That way they have it with them all the time. They're very inexpensive. And they do show that they do decrease how we swap germs."
As we start sharing viruses, then we need to build our immune systems back up again. And part of that is to make sure you and your kids are getting enough sleep. Dr. Rhoades say a solid eight hours of sleep is best. If you can start resetting your kids' clocks by a half hour each day this week, that'll really help minimize the sudden shock to the system when those early alarms ring on the first day of school.
And before you can even send your kids off to school, you need to make sure they are up do date with their required immunizations. DHEC updated the required shots for this upcoming school year, and there is a change for incoming first graders.
"Vaccines are good! Vaccines stop disease," emphasizes Dr. Rhoades. Last year, new to the required immunization list was the Tdap vaccine for seventh graders. This year, first graders are now required to have two doses of the chicken pox vaccine. And that's because schools are still seeing symptoms in kids who only had one dose. Dr. Rhoades says, "The antibodies aren't staying around as long as we once thought."
Dr. Rhoades acknowledges that fears of vaccinations causing autism have stirred up the debate over the past few years on whether you should vaccinate your kids. "That's pretty much been debunked," he says. "That one statement had been based on one very bad study that didn't have any clarification to it."
Take for example what happened at Disney Land last year, Dr. Rhoades says. A few kids who weren't vaccinated for measles caused an outbreak. That could easily happen at a local school if not all students are vaccinated. There was an outbreak of tuberculosis last year in the Horry County School District. Dr. Rhoades says that he was very pleased with how the county health department responded. Experts were able to isolate those who started the outbreak, start treatment, and get it under control quickly.
"We're a community," he says. "We want to help each other out. You want your child to be protected against these things. You went ahead and got them vaccinated. Gosh, wouldn't you feel terrible if your next door neighbor didn't get their child vaccinated and your child gets sick as a result."
Even though the flu shot is not a requirement, doctors want to encourage you to get the shot as soon as it becomes available. Dr. Rhoades has seen more flu cases through this summer than he has in a long time. He says that could be because this past year's strain was much tougher to fight. But he says it very well could be because fewer people decided to vaccinate early on last season, and are now paying the price.
If you're not sure what shots your kid needs, give your pediatrician or general doctor a call or click here. You must have all these required vaccines by the first day of school. You better give your doctor a call to make an appointment soon, because doctors' offices will be very busy closer to the start of school.