As millions of children head back to school, the chances of them becoming sick increases in comparison to the fun, carefree Summer break they’ll leave behind.   

Children are exposed to a long list of germs from not only other students, but from faculty members as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control, elementary school students catch eight to 12 colds or cases of the flu each year. Because of this higher exposure to germs, parents are subject to missing work. 

“The flu won’t be the common thing when they first start school. It’s just gonna be your common upper respiratory common cold typically that we’ll see,” says Dr. Janice Johnston, MD at Redirect Health.  

However, Johnston encourages parents to keep their children home if they’re running a fever or vomiting, in which case it is highly contagious.  

“Too often, parents send their kids to school like that and then all the other classmates get exposed at the same time,” Johnston says.  

That’s when the concern hits parents because in many cases, they are unable to get a babysitter on short notice and end up having to miss work. There are certainly ways in which parents can avoid being penalized for missing workdays, as it is a legitimate concern that any working parent is more than likely aware of.  

“Under Arizona law as of July 1st, all employees in Arizona are offered paid sick time and that sick time can be used to care for a child. So, if an employer takes adverse action against an employee while they’re using that sick time, that sick time is protected statutorily under the statute. So, they have remedies for retaliation under that statute if that employer fires them or demotes or changes their job duties simply because they were taking sick time,” says Adam Boyd, attorney at Radix Law.  

Parents should not have to be concerned about losing their job or feeling uneasy about speaking with their employer about them being out to take care of their child. Sometimes communication is the first step if all else fails.  

“To prevent conflict, I would just communicate with the employer and just say what avenue you want to take, whether it’s paid sick leave or something else, and try to be open with the employer about how long you expect to be out. As long as the employee communicates effectively, I don’t think too many would have a problem taking short time off for a sick child,” says Boyd.  

However, parents can prevent their child from even becoming sick in the first place if they make sure to vaccinate them and provide them with a nutritional diet. Many teachers already provide hand sanitizer and other hygiene related products for students, but prevention does not start and end with elementary school staff.  

“Make sure they get their proper rest. As parents, we tend to cut a little slack with the bedtime thing over the Summer time and our kids will start to stay up later and later. So, really trying to commit to a bedtime and making sure that they actually get a good breakfast, such as fruit or eggs, before they go to school,” says Johnston.  

She encourages busy, working parents to try and get up earlier to provide their children with eggs or fruit and a glass of water, as cereal is basically like eating a piece of cake rather than a nutritional, quick breakfast.  

The flu shot is extremely important as well, as the flu is highly contagious and once it hits a classroom, most of the children will become sick if they are not vaccinated.  

Johnston says, “Usually we’ll see the flu hit around Christmas time. That’s a big one to make sure they get vaccinated for. They will probably get into the doctor’s office and pharmacies usually toward the end of August and September.” 

Given that the flu shot is available at the beginning of the schoolyear, that is when parents are recommended to vaccinate their children. It is an easy way to ensure there will be less of a chance for the child to suffer through an illness and the parent suffer through missing important workdays.