Kids are back in school, which means they’re around lots more germs, bacteria and sick classmates. But with the right precautions and habits, it’s easy to stay healthy all year long.

Mandy Stuckey, nursing supervisor for the North Little Rock School District, manages all the nurses in the district as well as substituting and helping out at schools each week. She talked with Little Rock Family and shared her wellness wisdom for the school year.

How important is it to frequently wash hands and use hand sanitizer?

Washing hands with soap and water is the absolute best way to prevent especially back-to-school bugs. The kids come back to school and they haven’t been around other classmates for a while and come back with germs. They’ve been around their immediate families and not strangers ... so we have those back to school bugs that we try to fight. The best way to do that is hand washing. Hand sanitizer works good, too, but not as well as the friction from soap and water.

What other factors affect a students' health and overall well-being?

The main thing they do in the summer that kind of messes them up is their sleep patterns. They get in habits of staying up all night and sleeping late and their sleep pattern gets messed up which affects the immune system. High school students require about six to eight hours of sleep and the younger students require about eight to 10.

When should kids stay home from school and when should they power through and head to class?

If they have a fever of above 100 they are absolutely contagious and should not be around other children until they are fever free for 24 hours without the use of medication. That’s a big misconception — lots of people think that just because you don’t have a fever from (taking) Tylenol or ibuprofen, you are no longer contagious. But when I say fever free, I mean fever free on your own — not with the use of medication.

As far as throwing up and the stomach bug goes, you need to be vomit free and diarrhea free for 24 hours or you can still spread that and it’s so easily contagious.

What’s one myth about everyday health you’d like to debunk?

The lice situation is a big, big thing right now. That’s another thing that happens when we come back to school. Parents don’t want their kids to get lice and they think lice are going to jump onto them. But it’s actually not that easy for it to spread — you have to have direct contact.

We send kids home as soon as we know that they have live bugs but we don’t necessarily send kids home that just have the eggs. That’s a controversial issue right now, but the CDC recommends that they are allowed to stay in school as long as they don’t have the live bugs.

Kids can return to school when they have proof that they have been treated. They have to bring us the box or prescription from the doctor and the nurse re-checks their hair before entering back into the classroom.

What should parents realize about school nurses and the job they do?

There’s a whole lot more than just band-aids and fevers. I think they expect us to be on call for those things, but we have several chronic illness kids that we see every day and sometimes that’s more urgent than a scrape on a knee.

For instance, at the middle school right now we have nine diabetics that come in at the exact same time for us to calculate their insulin. Sometimes we may have to say to a kid, ‘you’re going to have to hold off on your scraped knee right now, buddy, because I’m trying to calculate insulin.’ No one really realizes how much of the chronic illnesses we’re dealing with at the same time we’re dealing with the emergencies.