“Dirt Don’t Hurt,” says the new age mom as she relaxingly eyes her 5-year old rolling like dough on the kitchen floor. Well, dirt don’t hurt, but guess what? Germs do! And even more so when you have more than one child to nurse back to health. Sick kids equal X days of missed school and X days of missed work. But why do kids get sick right when school starts?

First, children’s immune systems are still developing. Combine lowered immunity, a carefree kid mentality, and germ swapping from pencils, playgrounds, toilets, desks, and hand-holding, and what do you get? Sick kids. It just takes one day of being back to school for a child to be exposed to a superfluous amount of germs. WebMD reports that the average American child catches six to ten colds per year. Colds cause more doctor visits and absences than any other illness.

Before it’s too late and you’re stuck in a house-turned-infirmary for four days, here are some simple things you can do to ward off the cooties.

Simple Steps for Preventing a House Full of Sick Kids and Parents

Step 1: Charge that Immune System With Vaccinations

It’s painful to watch your little one get vaccine shots, but in the end, it’s totally worth it. Aside from the standard child vaccines like, MMR and DTaP, you should take the entire family (including any family member 6 months or older) to get the flu vaccine every year. A recent study showed that the flu vaccine reduced the risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit admission by 74% during flu seasons from 2010-2012, and produced a 71% reduction in flu-related hospitalizations among adults of all ages. The flu shot, along with other vaccines, is a simple precaution to take, and the benefits you gain for you, your family, and your sanity far outweigh the momentary unpleasantness of getting a shot.

Step 2: Put Your Kids Through Germ Management Boot Camp

Unless you’ve already taught them, your kids have no idea about all the little germs lurking around their school. Unbeknownst to them, they collect and transfer germs to one another at a very fast rate. If you want to avoid dealing with a sick child year round, it’s time to put them through germ management boot camp! This involves training your kids to wash their hands with soap before they eat, after they sneeze, and after they use the playground or bathroom. Load hand sanitizer in their schoolbags for the times they can’t get to a sink. Show them how to cough and sneeze into a tissue or their sleeve- like Dracula –  to avoid spreading germs. And of course, teach them about all the creepy crawlers they get from sharing drinks, lip gloss, saliva, and snot.

Step 3: Build Your Kids’ Immunity

You may have read our blog on 3 Healthy Habits for Kids that talks about how much diet, exercise, and water can impact children’s health. In addition, we discussed all the benefits of the right amount of sleep. All these elements also help to build your kids’ immune systems. Extensive studies over the years reveal how sleep and the circadian rhythm strongly support regulation of immune function. This just goes to show parents how a regular sleep schedule can potentially prevent having a chronically sick child.

→ Get some ideas on what to feed your kids by reading our Immune System Booster blog.