Teachers and administrators warn of 'back-to-school plague'

(NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Teachers and administrators are warning families about what many call the "back-to- school plague."

They are referring to the masses that get sick at the start of the year, when classrooms are a hot zone for germs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the average elementary student gets sick eight to twelve times per year.

One expert even called schools a "germ candy store."

But there are healthy habits you can encourage to crack down on those bugs.

First, simply know the danger zones.

Experts say the germiest place at school is actually the water fountain.

Teach your kids to run the water for a few seconds before taking a sip or bring their own water bottle.

Another important tip: start kids' school sleep patterns now, a few weeks before school begins.

Make sure they are getting 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night, so their immune systems will be strong when the year starts.

A study from the University of Georgia also found only about a quarter of kids know how to properly wash their hands.

Local school nurses tell they are working to improve those numbers.

"Kids wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before they eat their lunch and we work with them to wash their hands every time they go to the bathroom," says Dawn Caron, a Holland Hospital school nurse. "Our educators have started from the beginning of the school year. This starts from the youngest children and then we just reinforce it."

The Family Health Center in Kalamazoo is hosting an event Friday from 12-6pm to encourage healthy students.

The Back to School Bash will promote health awareness and help families make arrangements to get kids vaccinated.

They will be giving away free school supplies and they have some fun and games planned for the kids.

For more information, click here: or call 269-349-2641.