If an apple a day isn't keeping your doctor away, consider some of the tips offered by the Delaware City School District's friendly school nurse.

If an apple a day isn't keeping your doctor away, consider some of the tips offered by the Delaware City School District's friendly school nurse.

Registered nurse Eileen Duffy said an increase in illness rates among students happens around the holidays every year.

"Enclosed spaces and increased contact with the public through holiday activities results in shared colds as we enter January and early February," Duffy said.

She said though many people talk about this being the "happiest time of the year," it's the opposite for some.

"It's a very stressful time for a lot of people," she said. "Some people are struggling financially and have a lot to pay for, and we also have a lot more things we're doing, like school concerts and holiday parties. It's a stressful time."

She said during this time, it's important for parents to create structure to decrease stress and make sure the demands of time and balancing homework won't wear children out.

"Do the most important things first, so you're not scrambling at the last second, and don't do more than you or your kids can handle," she said.

Duffy recommends drinking more fluids during the winter months due to the dry air and cold temperatures.

"Without the heat, children are not aware of their thirst," she said. "Adequate hydration avoids dry membranes in the nose that crack, causing nosebleeds. Saline nasal sprays available at pharmacies can ease the drying of nasal passageways and help clear mucus."

Duffy said if students are sick -- and especially if they have a fever -- they should stay home for at least 24 hours and make sure to report to the school what illness the child has.

"We aren't interrogating parents when we ask what their student is ill from when they call them in sick," she said. "We are trying to be prepared so we can avoid sickness spreading to other students."

For example, if a student has a certain illness, the school may consider rearranging desks, using different cleaning agents or sending letters home to parents to make sure everyone is staying healthy.

"We are concerned about the health of all of our students, and we are also required by law to report instances of meningitis, because it could become a community-wide concern," Duffy said.

She said 25 percent of students in the district have asthma and it's important to be aware of how holiday items can affect their bodies.

Duffy said she has asthma herself.

"I love the smell of evergreen and seasonal potpourri, but my asthma doesn't," she said. "Limit fresh Christmas greens if your child's allergies are triggered by mold or pollen. If you must have a fresh tree, spray it down with a garden hose and allow it to dry before setting up the tree in the house. Dust decorations and artificial greenery with a dusting rag and blow dryer outside the house prior to bringing ornaments into the main areas of the home."

Duffy said one of the most important things people can do is, of course, to wash their hands.

"We wipe down a lot of surfaces in the school, but honestly, if people would wash their hands, that's an easier fix than trying to wipe everything everyone touches," she said.

Duffy said when a student comes to school with a cough or has been vomiting, school officials take action.

"We pay attention to all the little things we see," she said. "We pay attention to what parents tell us is going on so we can do our best to prevent illness from spreading and make sure all our students are healthy this winter."