As a first grade teacher, Julie Miller is exposed to a horrifying number of germs on a daily basis.

“I’ve been thrown up on; they sneeze and cough on me. And lost teeth are a real big thing for first-graders,” said Miller, who is starting her 25th year as a teacher and works at Spring Hills Elementary in suburban Chicago. School just started, but she’s already had a couple kids get sick in her classroom.

“They’re so cute and unaware, though. They’ll have boogers hanging out of their nose and will be talking to you and not think anything of it. Some teachers flip out, but I tell my students, ‘Go get a Kleenex and wash your hands.’ When they sneeze, I teach them to do it into their elbows. They learn eventually.”

On average, elementary school children get six to eight colds each school year, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. For high school kids, it’s about half that. Both groups are at high risk for the flu. Teachers and parents commonly refer to this cold and flu phenomenon as the “back-to-school plague.”

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