Back to school time is, for most parents, a sacred rite. Not that having the kids around 24/7 is without its own entertainment value, but there is “a time for freedom” too.
Now it is the time for school teachers to try to harness all that youthful energy and promise of our future citizens, engaging and guiding the maturation of a new generation.
Social engineers can argue about the advantages of gathering our children into group settings as an efficient manner of educating and civilizing our world. However, epidemiologists have compelling evidence that bringing large numbers of humans into close proximity has serious health consequences. It is the reason schools hire nurses, social workers, and police officers. The most obvious health consequence is the improved transmission of viruses and other germs. Sneeze or cough in a class full of kids, and several of them will later share their germs with the rest of their families and friends.
These infections include the common cold, flu, mono, strep throat, and even meningitis. And with America’s welcoming of globalization, classrooms often have students from countries where diseases such as TB and hepatitis are more common. Parents and health professionals should understand back-to-school implications. If a child has a fever, infection is likely the cause.
Symptoms such as cough or runny nose narrow down the possible causes. Most illnesses in children are easily managed by a calm parent.Ill children may need to stay home and rest, drink fluids, and be taught to blow their noses and cover their mouths when coughing. Medical assessment is called for if the symptoms are persistent and worsening, fluid intake is not able to stave off dehydration, or if there is severe pain or changes in the child’s brain function.
The infection risks of herding our young into classrooms and auditoriums are serious enough, but consider too the effect on the psychosocial development of our children.
Friendships, relationships, and sharing get redefined and refined, which are positives. Being bullied, coerced, and subjected to pack mentality are not welcome, but hard to prevent. A home environment with a positive, loving, and safe family structure will arm the child with the tools needed to cope with the negative aspects of our large group education format.
So parents, go ahead and rejoice that it is back to school time. Just stock up on Kleenex, acetaminophen, and make sure the lines of communication remain open so the path forward will stay clear.