Most school nurses agree: The best way to keep students healthy during the school year is to make sure they wash their hands.
That simple tip matches the advice from experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): "Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others."
A total of 271 school nurses responded to a KidsHealth in the Classroom survey in October and November 2013. When asked, "What do you think is the most important thing parents can do to help keep their children healthy during the school year?," 28% of the nurses said parents should make sure kids and teens wash their hands.
"Educate children on hand washing and how to cover their coughs and sneezes. We at the school cannot do all the education; it has to start at home," said a school nurse from Fayette, Alabama.
"Teach them how and when to wash their hands and to keep their fingers away from their eyes, nose, and mouth, and how to cover coughs and sneezes using their elbows," said a Bradford, Rhode Island, school nurse.
Here's what else school nurses suggested:
When asked, "What's the biggest health problem at your school?," here's what the nurses said:
"I think the biggest health problems occur because there are parents who send their children to school knowing they are sick," said a Piermont, New York, school nurse.
A Newport Beach, California, school nurse agreed that the biggest problem is "Parents who send sick kids to school (even with a fever) because 'they have to take a test.'"
Many schools require that students stay home until at least 24 hours after a fever has broken naturally, without fever-reducing medicines.
When asked "What's the most important thing teachers can do to help keep students healthy during the school year?" even more school nurses recommended hand washing:
KidsHealth in the Classroom sent surveys to U.S. school nurses via newsletters. A total of 271 responded:
Among the respondents: