Morning Rounds: Avoid the back-to-school bugs

NORFOLK, Va. - Students are heading back to school in Hampton Roads this week, and doctors warn of a possible increase in certain illnesses now that they're back in close quarters.

"Children returning to school are at risk for hand-foot-and-mouth disease, lice, conjunctivitis, flu, sore throat (strep or mono), the common cold, and stomach viruses (norovirus)," said News 3 medical expert Dr. Ryan Light.  "Proper hand washing helps prevent the spread of these illnesses. Keep sick children at home."

Dr. Light said parents can reduce the chances of their children getting a cold by:

  • Setting a regular bedtime and wake time during the school year
  • Teaching good hand hygiene
  • Maintaining coughing and sneezing etiquette
  • Teaching children not to share food, drinks, or clothing
  • Eating on regular schedule

Dr. Light stressed the importance of good hand hygiene, whether kids are using soap and water or hand sanitizers.

"Hand sanitizes are a good alternative if a sink is unavailable, or if the goal is to kill bacteria," he said. "Hand sanitizers contain alcohol which kills germs, so it should be used mindfully with children."

When it comes to Vitamin C, Dr. Light said giving it to children preemptively is risky.

"Studies show that routine Vitamin C does not reduces contracting the common cold," he said. "It can help decrease the duration of symptoms.

He also warned that large doses of Vitamin C can cause stomach aches, nausea, diarrhea, and kidney stones.

"The maximum dose for children ages one to three is less than 400 mg a day," he explained. "Children ages four to eight is less than 650 mg a day."

Dr. Light said there is limited data showing antioxidants in fruits and vegetables may decrease the risk of catching a cold by 40 percent.

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