When the kids head back to school in September, they'll be sharing desks, supplies, books, perhaps toys and, in turn, plenty of germs.

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According to the chief medical officer at Children's Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, "the minute" school is back in session, emergency departments see an uptick in the number of visits due to viral illnesses.

"(The kids) are in tighter quarters," said Dr. Christopher Haines. "And what it does is it increases the contagiousness of the viruses."

The phenomenon is known to some as the "back-to-school plague." The return of homework and projects also means the return of coughing and sneezing.

Haines said any reachable space in a school can be considered a "hot spot" for germs during the school year, and when kids are eating together or working together, those germs jump from one person to the next.

Nearly 22 million school days are missed each year due to colds alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 38 million days are lost due to the flu.

Haines said kids and parents are "better off" the more they wash their hands and sanitize.

"If a child's old enough to carry hand sanitizer around with them, that would be extremely beneficial," he said.

Cough etiquette, using one's arm instead of one's hand, can help avoid the spread of germs as well.

But if these steps aren't followed, or they fail, and a child comes down with a fever, Haines said parents need to keep their kids home and away from classmates.

The New Jersey State School Nurses Association insisted immunizations are critical to maintaining school and community health.

Click here for the recommended vaccine timetable from the American Academy of Pediatrics.