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As the new school year begins, so does the spread of the pesky back-to-school germs. Not only does your child miss school, but you're at risk of getting sick, too.


August 23, 2017

In fact, the average American child has six to ten colds each year,1 causing 126 million missed workdays while parents are caring for a sick child, and potentially contracting the illness themselves.2

Luckily, there are several steps you can take to keep the spread of germs to a minimum to help get your family back to school and back to work.

Get Vaccinated

Each year, new strains of flu can surface. Workplaces often have flu shot clinics right on site for employees’ convenience, and your urgent care center or pediatrician may offer flu shots for both you and your child. (This is also a great time to catch up on other childhood vaccines, such as pertussis and varicella.)

According to the CDC, the flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by 50 to 60 percent and a child’s risk of hospitalization from the flu by 74 percent.3 Getting flu shots for you and your family can protect you before the flu season even begins.

Encourage Proper Hand Washing

All it takes is one child at school to forget to wash his or her hands for your son or daughter to pick up the germs and carry them into your home. Teach your child to use soap and water while scrubbing for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer when soap isn’t available. Always remember to be a good role model at home.

A person wearing gloves and holding a sponge and spray bottle wiping a table

Disinfect Surfaces and Objects at Home

Cold and flu germs love to hang out in your home.  Make sure you’re using a product that both cleans (removes germs) and disinfects (kills germs), and pay close attention to the instructions on how long the product should remain on the surface to be fully effective. Don’t forget the frequently missed spots: toys, doorknobs, and railings.

A coffee pot with small amount of coffee in it

Disinfect at Work

Your desk, drawer handles, keyboard, mouse, and phone can hold viruses for several days. And it takes only four hours for germs to be spread to surfaces around the office when one employee is sick.4

One of the worst places for germs is the office coffee pot. A study by the University of Arizona in Tucson found that within two hours, germs from the main door of the building had made it to the coffee pot.4 From there, they quickly spread to other office surfaces and objects in shared spaces, as well as your personal desk and belongings.

If these stats didn’t make you want to wipe down your office space, knowing that desks typically hold 400 times more germs than a toilet seat should make you reach for the disinfecting wipes.5

Take Care of Your Family and Yourself

Getting enough rest, exercising, and eating healthy keeps your immune system strong. Focus on getting enough protein, fruits, and vegetables in your daily diet. Foods high in vitamin C or antioxidants also help to boost your immune system.

For extra preparation, consider creating a back-to-school sick plan for you and your family.

Keep an eye out for some illnesses that are common during back-to-school season, including respiratory viruses; the common cold; strep throat; influenza; head lice; and hand, foot, and mouth disease.6 If you or your child does come down with an illness, stay home and get plenty of rest before returning to the daily grind. Keeping your distance from others while you’re sick can help prevent the illness from spreading at school, work, and even at home. And don’t forget to stop in and see your doctor or local MedExpress team so you can quickly get back to feeling your best.


1 Web MD: Common Cold. Updated February 25, 2016. Accessed July 5, 2017.

2 CBS News: Back to School, Back to Germs. Updated August 22, 2005. Accessed July 5, 2017. 

3 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Vaccine Effectiveness – How Well Does the Flu Vaccine Work? Updated February 15, 2017. Accessed July 5, 2017. 

4 Fast Company: 6 Ways to Avoid Making Everyone In Your Office Sick. Updated October 31, 2014. Accessed July 5, 2017. 

5 Forbes: Danger in the Microwave: Germs at Work and How to Avoid Them. Updated May 23, 2012. Accessed July 5, 2017. 

6 Fast Company: Back-to-School Germs to Avoid. Updated August 17, 2012. Accessed July 5, 2017.

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