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Good grades, bad germs
"Hand washing is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from the things we're exposed to every day." — Becky Ball, district nurse at HUSD
On average, a child will have six to 10 colds per year and many parents struggle with knowing when to keep them home. Dr. Zak Zarbock, a Utah-based pediatrician with a new article on the subject, suggests this system:
Red light: Keep your child home
• Fever of 101 degrees or higher
• Wheezing or shortness of breath
• Cough that disrupts regular activities
• Constant yellow or green drainage from the nose
• Ill appearance or excessive fatigue
Yellow light: Trust your judgment
• Improving fever
• Sporadic cough that minimally interferes with activities
• Congestion may be present but minimal green or yellow discharge from the nose
Green light: Safe to return to school
• Mild, infrequent cough that does not negatively impact daily activities
• Clear runny nose
• Active, playful and rested
Serving approximately 20,000 students and being one of the largest employers in the High Desert, Hesperia Unified School District nurses are busier than ever as children and staff have reconvened once again in the name of education.
Back-to-school time is also when most people are more likely to get sick, said Becky Ball, a registered nurse who has worked for HUSD for 13 years.
Ball said research proves regular sleeping patterns promote health and that adequate sleep is the No. 1 way to preserve immunity.
“If you don’t get enough sleep, your immune system suffers because that’s when our bodies recover,” Ball said. “Children and teens need at least eight to 10 hours a night because their bodies are changing and expending a lot of energy — especially if they’re in an in-between stage.”
Ball added that as children and families transition from summer vacation to a stricter schedule, it’s important to quiet down the entire house as children are falling asleep, allowing them maximum time for their bodies to recover.
“The students are in bigger crowds on a more regular basis and they are also more active during school,” Ball said. “When they return, their bodies may be kind of sluggish, so they need the extra rest to make up for the increased activity.”
Beyond instructing children to cover their coughs and wash their hands, Ball says parents need to set good examples in order for a child to model the appropriate behavior.
“If children never see that at home, it’s harder for them to adopt it as well,” Ball said. “Parents also need to talk to their kids about washing their hands. Hand washing is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from the things we’re exposed to every day.”
April Vincent, a diabetes educator and registered dietitian at St. Joseph Health, St. Mary in Apple Valley, said proper nutrition keeps the body healthy because antioxidants, such as those found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, are the best at fighting inflammation on a cellular level. Cellular inflammation makes a person’s body more susceptible to infection and more likely to get sick. Vincent added that foods high in sugar and the wrong types of carbohydrates increase this inflammation and decrease immunity.
Ball also said hydration is important for the immune system and that HUSD encourages students to bring a water bottle to school.
“They’re expending more energy, they’re exposed to more things and there’s multiple, multiple people (at a school),” Ball said. “Cover coughs and wash hands. Those two things are huge.”