After a summer away from school, returning to the confines of a classroom creates a melting pot for bacteria.
Spending time inside surrounded by students and teachers as temperatures start to cool can also help illnesses circulate.
“People congregating — large numbers close together — they’re breathing on each other, coughing and sneezing,” said Bob Marthiensen, a nursing instructor in the University of Lethbridge’s health sciences program.
“That’s where germs can spread.”
But there are ways to ensure your child is in top shape to fight off any bugs going around.
Marthiensen also has experience working with schools as a nurse.
He says keeping immunizations up to date is important, but there are plenty of steps parents can take right at home to promote a healthy immune system.
“Good nutrition — you should be eating right. You want to keep your immune system and your body healthy and that’s a really important one,” Marthiensen said.
“(Also), physical activity. We want to reduce sedentary lifestyle, because that has a positive impact on our immune systems as well.”
Marthiensen believes there’s another factor that’s just as important, but people sometimes don’t consider.
“Stress levels. Kids going back into school, it’s high stress. They may be into a new school, new classes and things like that,” he said.
“Planning a lot of downtime perhaps, and doing a lot of those activities that reduce stress.”
Marthiensen adds preparing immune systems for the new school year can’t begin soon enough.
“Continually doing it, so there wouldn’t be any ebb and flow, it would be all the time,” he said.
“Keep it up if you can, but definitely start right away if you haven’t been doing it.”
Meanwhile, local schools are continuing to take health precautions as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
“We want our students, staff and visitors to feel welcomed in safe environments throughout the division,” a statement from the Lethbridge School Division reads in part.
The division lists several measures in place for the upcoming school year, including hand-sanitizer stations placed throughout buildings and encouraging proper respiratory etiquette.
Enhanced cleaning protocols will also be in effect, such as sanitizing high-touch surfaces throughout the day.
At the provincial level, the ministry of education says school illness outbreaks will be managed by Alberta Health Services using pre-pandemic practices, like identifying outbreaks based on student absenteeism.
School authorities no longer require government approval to shift to online learning.
“As was the case before the COVID-19 pandemic, shifts to at-home learning for operational reasons will be at the discretion of school authorities,” a statement from acting press secretary Erin Allin reads in part. “We will also be communicating our expectations for a return to pre-pandemic learning with school authorities in advance of the September 2022 return to school.
“We strongly encourage all school authorities to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students, staff and visitors – regardless of their vaccination status or their personal decision on masking.”