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Keeping kids healthy this back-to-school season

Posted Sep 18th, 2023

Dr. Katelyn MacKenzie, Pediatrician, shared some proactive steps to stay vigilant this back-to-school season. 

For many, back-to-school season is a time filled with excitement and new beginnings. For Dr. Katelyn MacKenzie, a pediatrician in the Children’s Health Unit at Niagara Health, the start of a new school year also means an increase in virus transmission.

"As the weather gets colder and kids are spending more time indoors, we will see an increase in respiratory infections," says Dr. MacKenzie. 

"While we can't control every risk factor, there are important measures we can take to lower the risk of infection and keep our little ones safe and healthy." 

Dr. MacKenzie shared some proactive steps to help keep kids healthy during back-to-school season.

Prioritize good hand hygiene

Encourage kids to wash their hands frequently throughout the day, especially before eating and after using the bathroom. “Try making this a fun activity for young children,” says Dr. Mackenzie. “Singing the ABC song while hand washing can help to instill this important habit.”

Practice cough etiquette

Young children may not always remember to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, which can spread respiratory infections more easily. Remind children to use a tissue or to cough or sneeze into their upper arm if a tissue is not available.

Stay up-to-date with vaccinations

Vaccines are one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of respiratory infections. Ensure that children are up-to-date on all recommended vaccines, including the flu shot, which is available at walk-in clinics, pharmacies, physicians’ offices and many other locations. For a list of locations, visit

Keep sick children at home

Children who are feeling unwell should stay home from school until they are no longer contagious. Teach children to recognize the symptoms of respiratory infections, and keep them home if they experience any of these symptoms.

Know Your Options

Most respiratory illnesses with symptoms such as mild cough, runny nose, sneezing and low-grade fever can be monitored safely at home with over-the-counter medicines, rest, drinking plenty of fluids and staying home when sick.

It is important to consult a walk-in-clinic or your family physician if symptoms are prolonged or not improving with over-the-counter medication.

Children who are having trouble breathing, experiencing a prolonged fever, or are at risk of dehydration should go to the closest emergency department. If you are unable to get there yourself, call 9-1-1.

Learn more about your healthcare options in Niagara here.

By prioritizing good health practices and staying vigilant, we can help keep our children safe throughout the school year.

Niagara Health System