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Proper hygiene a must when heading back to school, SHA expert says

Students are set to return to Saskatchewan classrooms as early as this week and parents are being reminded to make sure their children maintain proper hygiene and good infection control practices to prevent any illnesses at school.

Dr. David Torr, a medical health officer with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, says back to school always presents challenges because it brings people into a congregated environment and makes it easier for contagious illnesses to be transmitted.

“Washing their hands, not sharing bottles to drink, you know all those kinds of things are really important,” Torr said.

He added children should be kept up to date with immunizations, as they protect from many infectious diseases. SHA says outbreaks of whooping cough have hit the province, which is more severe than the common cold.

“Unfortunately, many of the kids who have been affected by whooping cough here are either not up to date with their immunizations, or have not had any immunizations at all,” Torr said.

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Symptoms of whooping cough include longer fits of coughing, exhaustion and vomiting, and Torr said the illness could last more than a month or two without proper treatment.

Torr stressed the best way to stop  illnesses spreading in schools is to have your kids stay home when they are sick.

“We’ve got to try and prevent the spread of illnesses so if you’re sick, you’re not in any shape to even be in school.”

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Saskatoon public schools are anticipating rates of illnesses to be higher than previous years once school is back in session, and are anticipating cases of influenza to rise once flu season starts in November.

“The influenza virus is a very smart one; it keeps changing its dynamics,” Torr said, adding to the importance of getting the annual flu vaccine.

Lastly, Torr explained viruses thrive in cold environments, so having children properly dressed and hydrated will aide in preventing the spread of illnesses when kids are in school.

“When it’s extremely cold, and for example, in Saskatchewan we have a dry cold, so your mucous membranes dry up especially if you’re not hydrated, and when they’re dry, that’s a protective layer that is now missing, and the viruses have easy access. It’s like having a border with no border patrol.”


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