Posted: Aug 09, 2012 11:00 AM
As summer starts to wind down, students and families will be gearing up for another school year. As a pediatrician, my goal is to keep kids healthy and in school where they belong. Here are some healthy back-to-school tips to help minimize the spread of germs in school.

Contributed by Dr. Alanna Levine

Preventing illnesses

Prevention is key. I would much rather prevent illness in children, than have to treat it.

  • Teach children to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Make sure all tissues make their way into the garbage right away and then teach children to wash their hands afterward.
  • Keep children home when they are sick, in order to help avoid spreading germs to other children. Children should be fever-free for a full 24 hours without the use of a fever reducer before returning to school.
  • Consistently encourage children to properly wash their hands using warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds and drying them thoroughly with a clean towel. Either set a timer so they can learn how long 20 seconds really is, or have them sing a song that lasts at least 20 seconds.
  • Disinfect all commonly touched surfaces in the home if someone is sick -- like door knobs and faucets.

Healthy habits

It is much easier to instill healthy habits from the beginning than it is to break bad habits later on. Here are a few things parents can do to help instill healthy habits:

  • When teaching young children to brush their teeth, it's helpful for you to brush after they do. To ensure that all areas have been covered, remind kids to brush upstairs left, downstairs left, upstairs right, downstairs right, and in the front.
  • School-age children should try to get 45-60 minutes of exercise each day. Family hikes and bike rides are a great way to spend time together and stay healthy. It's important for parents to set a good example about being physically active, so get out there and exercise with them!
  • Try to limit television, videos and non-educational computer time to 2 hours per day for children over the age of 2. Also, avoid putting a television in a child's bedroom, and have older kids park their cell phones in a central area or charging station outside of their bedroom each night.
  • Talk to children about the potential dangers and inappropriate content they may come across on the internet. It's important they be aware of these possibilities and that they know what to do when such a situation arises.

Health and hygiene

Teaching children good habits in health and hygiene will not only help to keep them healthy, but will also help them in social situations.

  • Discuss with children the importance of having good hygiene, for both health and social reasons.
  • Talk to teens about the importance of keeping their skin properly cleaned. More than 80 percent of teens have acne, which could often be prevented with proper treatment of the skin.
  • Teach children to avoid sharing things like combs, brushes and hats to prevent head lice.
  • Place an emphasis on eating nutrient dense foods, and be sure to let your children see you eating healthy foods.

Bottom Line^ Keeping these tips in mind will help to keep children healthy and happy throughout the school year! To find these tips and more, visit

Dr. Alanna Levine is a New York based pediatrician and a mom of two children. As a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Alanna has partnered with Kimberly-Clark and Colgate-Palmolive on a new healthy back to school initiative, Healthy Habits. For more information, visit or