Protect Yourself From Back-to-School Sickness

Mum and child washing hands.

As the back-to-school season arrives, parents often deal with more than just school schedules and shopping lists. Amidst the excitement and anticipation, it’s common for parents to become more susceptible to illness due to their children’s return to the classroom environment.


When children head back to school, they are exposed to germs and viruses that circulate within close-knit school communities. These young carriers unknowingly bring these pathogens home, creating an environment ripe for transmission to parents and other family members. From the common cold and flu phenomenon to more severe ailments like stomach flu, strep throat and gastrointestinal infections, parents are at an increased risk of falling ill during this time.

Understanding Back-to-School Sickness: Why Parents Are More Likely to Get Sick

Back-to-school season brings a whirlwind of activity and excitement, but it also ushers in a set of health challenges, particularly for parents with sick kids. While it might seem counterintuitive, parents are often more susceptible to falling ill during this period for several reasons:

Close Proximity and Shared Spaces

Schools are bustling hubs of activity where children, with their still-developing hygiene habits, congregate in close proximity. This increased contact and sharing of communal spaces create a breeding ground for germs of some of the most common childhood illnesses.

Immunity Gaps

Children, especially elementary school children, are more likely to pick up various pathogens from their classmates and bring them home. Their developing immune systems are often better equipped to fend off these germs, while parents may be more vulnerable to the cold and flu season due to age-related factors.

Stress and Fatigue

Preparing for the school year, managing schedules, and ensuring children have everything they need can be emotionally and physically taxing for parents. Stress and fatigue can weaken the immune system, making parents more susceptible to flu symptoms and infections.

Parental Caregiving

When children get sick, it’s often the parents who provide care and comfort. This close contact with sick children during carer’s leave can expose parents to a higher viral load, making them more prone to getting sick themselves.

Neglected Self-Care

Parents may prioritise keeping their kids healthy over themselves, neglecting self-care practices like proper nutrition, exercise, and rest. This neglect can compromise their immune systems, especially during the back to school plague.

Lower Vaccine Coverage

While children often have up-to-date vaccinations due to school requirements, adults may not be as vigilant about staying current with recommended vaccines, leaving them more susceptible to vaccine-preventable illnesses.

Understanding these factors can help parents take proactive steps to protect themselves from back-to-school sickness. By prioritising their health and practising good hygiene, parents can boost the immune system, minimise the risk of falling ill and ensure a smoother transition into the school year for their families.

School children in uniform, celebrating back to school plague.

Boosting Immunity: Your First Line of Defence

In the battle against back-to-school sickness and preventing symptoms like a severe sore throat, a robust immune system is your primary defence. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, and fortifying your body’s natural defences is key to staying healthy during this season.

Prioritise Proper Nutrition

A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can bolster your immune system. Incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains into your meals to provide your body with essential nutrients.

Stay Hydrated

Adequate hydration is often overlooked but plays a vital role in immune function. Drinking plenty of water helps flush out toxins and keeps your bodily systems running smoothly.

Get Sufficient Sleep

Maintaining good sleep hygiene is important. Quality deep sleep is when your body does most of its repair and maintenance work, including immune system support. Aim for 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night.

Exercise Regularly

Physical activity not only keeps you fit but also enhances your immune response. Engaging in regular exercise helps reduce inflammation and improves overall health.

Manage Stress

Chronic stress can weaken your immune system. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga or deep breathing into your daily routine.

Consider Supplements

In consultation with a healthcare professional, consider taking supplements like vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc to support your immune system, especially during the back-to-school season. You’ll find common supplements in the hub.health online portal for extra convenience.

Practise Good Hygiene

Basic hygiene measures like regular handwashing and avoiding close contact with sick individuals can help prevent the spread of germs.

By taking these proactive steps to boost your immunity, you can significantly reduce your vulnerability to back-to-school sickness and enjoy a healthier start to the academic year.

Mum and child eating well balanced meals to boost immunity.

Hygiene Habits for a Healthy Back-to-School Season

Maintaining good hygiene habits is a simple way to keep yourself and your child healthy during the back-to-school plague. Here are some simple but essential practices to follow:

Handwashing

Encourage your kids to wash their hands frequently with soap and water, especially before meals, after using the restroom, and after sneezing or coughing. Set a good example by doing the same.

Hand Sanitiser

When soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol content to kill germs on the go.

Cough and Sneeze Etiquette

Teach your children to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or their elbow when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs.

Keep Hands Away from Face

Avoid touching your face, particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth, as this can transfer germs from your hands to your respiratory system.

Regularly Clean High-Touch Surfaces

Disinfect commonly touched surfaces at home, like doorknobs, light switches, and countertops, to reduce the risk of germ transmission.

Change Clothes After School

Have your child change out of school clothes and wash their hands when they return home to prevent bringing school germs into the house.

Clean School Supplies

Regularly sanitise school supplies like backpacks, lunchboxes, and water bottles to keep them germ-free.

Stay Home When Sick

If your child shows any signs of illness, keep them home from school to prevent spreading sickness to others. If you’re worried about missing work to look after your child, try to negotiate a work-from-home day or consider getting a medical certificate for carer’s leave.

Vaccinations

Ensure your child is up to date with recommended vaccinations to protect them from vaccine-preventable illnesses.

By instilling these simple hygiene practices in your child’s routine and maintaining them at home, you can help create a healthier back-to-school environment and reduce the risk of illnesses for your family.

Parent looking after sick child as carer's leave.

Navigating Australia’s Back-to-School Vaccination Requirements

Understanding and complying with Australia’s back-to-school vaccination requirements is paramount for safeguarding your child’s health and the well-being of the wider school community. The Australian government enforces strict vaccination policies to prevent the outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases within schools. These requirements typically include vaccinations against diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough. 

It’s essential for parents to stay informed about these mandates, ensure their child’s vaccinations are up to date, and submit the necessary documentation to the school. Failing to meet these requirements can result in your child being excluded from school until their vaccinations are up to date. Navigating these vaccination regulations is key to promoting a healthy and safe learning environment for all students.

Need an online medical certificate for illness or carer’s leave? We’ve got you covered. Start your consultation now!

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