As millions of American school children and college students prepare to don their backpacks for the start of the school year, parents across the country are wondering how best to protect their little ones from the swine flu and other sickness.
According to Dr. Marie Savard, there are five keys to keeping your kids healthy this year.
Tip 1: Have a Plan for the Flu
Whether its the swine flu or just any flu, Savard said families everywhere should have a plan.
"We all know by now that you need to be vigilant about handwashing and to be responsible and stay home or in their dorm room if they are sick," Savard said. "But aside from the basic hygiene, the flu plan should contain the following: an estimated date for them to either get or start inquiring about the swine flu vaccination. Make sure they have it on their calendar for mid-October."
As with any contagious illness, for those going to college, keeping the kissing down could help significantly, Savard said.
If kissing is a must, the Center for Disease Control recommended college kids should be kissing with surgical masks on.
But if your kid does get sick, Savard said they should have a "health buddy," someone on campus or at school who can contact you if necessary and get homework assignments for your child while they're out.
Tip 2: Have an Emergency Health Card
An insurance card can help pay the medical bills, but Savard said an emergency health card can saves lives.
According to Savard, your child should have a card that has the name of his or her local health buddy, contact information as well as any allergies, medications and pertinent family medical history on it.
With this on their person, your child can let medical professionals know the basics about their health before accepting any new prescriptions, diagnosis or treatment, Savard said.
Tip 3: Get Immunized
Don't forget to get your kids immunized for things like meningitis and the tetanus diptheria pertussus, known as T-DAP, in addition to the swine flu when that vaccination is available.
Tip 4: Get Enough Sleep
Students often treat sleep like a very disposable part of their lives, Savard said, but skipping out on it can be unhealthy.
"Sleep boosts immunity and performance, so you shouldn't skip it," Savard said.
To help get enough sleep, Savard said to limit caffeine consumption during the four to six hours before bedtime. Approximately half of the caffeine consumed at 7 p.m. remains in the body at 11 p.m., Savard said.
"But keep in mind that any stimulants interfere including Internet, phones, videos, TVs in rooms, drugs, alcohol and so on," Savard said.
As far as how much sleep students should get, Savard recommends 10 hours minimum for grade schoolers, nine hours for high schoolers, eight hours for college kids and seven and a half to eight hours for adults.
Tip 5: Remember Chronic Conditions
Sending your kids off to school may also mean sending them far away from your reminders about any food allergies, diabetes or other chronic health conditions they may have.
To make sure your child does what is necessary to stay healthy, Savard recommends sending along written instructions and copies of important health summaries with them.
"Do not send your kids off to school without a thorough understanding of how to manage their illness," Savard said. "Make sure that they know not to let anyone treat them medically without looking at their emergency health card first."