The survey found that 90 percent of teachers think it is "common for students to come to school sick." Only about 30 percent said their schools' custodial staff disinfects the classrooms regularly.
"Germs are frequently spread through surface contact yet many teachers do not have the time or the tools to combat these germs," said Dr. Paul S. Horowitz, medical director of the Legacy Emanuel Children's Hospital pediatric and adolescent clinics in Portland, Ore. "This discrepancy can directly impact the health and wellness of both students and teachers."
More than 70 percent of teachers said they have missed school because of an illness they believe they caught from one of their students. The survey was conducted by the children's publisher Scholastic and released during an American Medical Association and National PTA media briefing on children's health.
Encouraging children to live a healthy lifestyle outside the classroom is important in illness prevention, said Janis Hootman, a registered nurse and immediate past president of the National Association of School Nurses.
"Children's health habits away from school have a direct impact on what happens to them and their classmates during school," Hootman said.
Doctors offer the following tips for parents:
Make sure that your kids wash their hands. This is the single most effective method for disease prevention. Hands should be scrubbed for 10 to 15 seconds.
Don't allow your children to share utensils. Although learning to share is important, this shouldn't apply to cups, glasses or eating utensils.
Make sure your children get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation stresses the immune system. Most children need at least eight hours of sleep per night.
Allow for a full recovery. Do not send your kids to school when they are sick.
Keep your children up-to-date on vaccines. New vaccines guard against an array of dangerous illnesses, including meningitis.
"We've come so far in protecting public health as a result of widespread immunizations," said Dr. Walter A. Orenstein, associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta, Ga. "We protect each other by vaccinating our children."