It's back to school for most New Jersey children this week, and homework isn't the only thing they will be bringing home with them.  Back to school is also a time when germs run rampant through the classrooms causing many students to come down with what has become known as the "back-to-school plague."  

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On average, elementary school children get eight to 12 colds and viruses each academic year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"During the summer time, kids are not mixing as much and if you put them back into the school environment, there are a lot of viruses. Those viruses start mixing together and kids start getting sick," said Dr. Christopher Haines, chief medical officer at Children's Specialized Hospital.

What can parents and children do to prevent infections?

First and foremost, children should be taught to wash their hands properly. "We generally teach kids to wash their hands while singing 'Happy Birthday' at least twice. Once is ok, but twice is better," Haines said. Having sanitizer on hand can also help guard against the common cold.

Children also need to learn how to blow their noses properly.  "If they have to sneeze, they should do so into their elbow, not their hand," Haines said.

Avoiding high risk areas, like water fountains, is also important. "If parents are allowed to provide an alternative to the water fountain, like a water bottle, I would highly suggest that. If children have to use the water fountain, they should let it run a little bit before they drink from it," Haines said.