GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Back-to-school is an exciting time for many students, parents and teachers, but with the new year, comes the risk of catching an illness.

“Back to school is one of the most exciting times for a teacher,” according to Kelsey Crowell, who is a Buncombe County teacher.

Kelsey Crowell is a mother of one with another on the way.

She told 7NEWS that returning to the classroom brings new supplies, a fresh slate and an occasional illness.

“He [her son] always gets at least one cold when he gets back to school and yeah, we see it a lot,” Crowell said.

From the common cold to strep throat, your kids are exposed to a lot when they return to school. However, medical professionals said there are ways you can limit their exposure.

“It’s a big step for kids coming back to school,” school nurse Heather Garrison said.

Garrison has seen her fair share of back-to-school illnesses as a school nurse at the Sterling School in Greenville.

“Typically, you know, a stomach bug, vomiting, diarrhea, viral illnesses, fever, sore throat, cough, those types of things… strep throat will go around,” Garrison explained. “You go towards wintertime, the flu usually pokes out and says hello.”.

According to the Pediatric Associates of Franklin, the most common back-to-school illnesses, outside of COVID-19, are:

  • Pink Eye
  • Common Cold
  • Seasonal Flu
  • Strep Throat

“Getting back around those kids and all those germs and things like that and getting back into the hand washing routine is always difficult,” Crowell said.

When it comes to prevention, medical professionals said that they’ve learned a lot from the pandemic.

They recommend washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. That’s enough time to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to yourself, twice.

“I think the biggest thing we’ve learned is the importance of personal hygiene,” Family Nurse Practitioner Kelley Newton-Smith said. “Just washing your hands, coughing into a tissue, sneezing into a tissue, and then washing your hands immediately after.”

Newton-Smith also said back-to-school is a great time to educate your kids on proper hygiene.

“So many things are transferred from touching objects and then touching our face or then touching our eyes. It’s all so important to teach children not to touch… try not to touch their eyes a lot, mainly because of the pink eye that we see a lot in schools.”

It’s also recommended to avoid sharing things like water bottles and school lunches.

“Making sure you are getting enough sleep and you are getting a good bedtime and you are getting good nutrition, vegetables, fruits, things like that. Make sure you are drinking lots of water… they are all important to prevent illness,” Garrison said.

While getting sick can be somewhat unpreventable, the recommended steps will help limit your chances of becoming ill. If your child does get sick, schools recommend keeping your kids home.

“Just try to protect others. If you know your child is sick, don’t send them to school so they can spread it to others in their class,” Garrison said.

Remember, it’s never too early to start educating.

“If you are not feeling the best and you are at school, maybe, you know, don’t give your friends a high-five to greet them,” Crowell said. “He does a pretty good job with it… so far!” 

Parents, you know your child best. School leaders said if they are under the weather, don’t risk it. Medical professionals recommend reaching out to your pediatrician or primary care doctor for proper care.