It’s that time of year again—back-to-school. Where kids will again be around many other kids and, inevitably, many more germs. It’s common to see our children with runny noses, coughs, sore throats, and respiratory infections like the common cold and flu. This school year, help your children learn how to stay healthy.
Cleaning your hands often is the most important way to prevent the spread of germs, but a true clean is often a bit more involved than we might think. A full cleaning is especially important for kids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following steps for a thorough hand washing:
- Wet your child’s hands
- Apply clean bar soap or liquid soap to the hands, and then place the bar on a rack where it can drain before the next hand washing
- Rub the hands vigorously together
- Scrub every surface completely
- Keep rubbing and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds
- Rinse the hands completely, then dry them
If soap and water is unavailable, hand sanitizer will get the job done for the interim. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but it’s important to remember that sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.
Here are some additional tips to stay healthy this school year:
- Get a flu shot every year.
- Avoid touching your face. When you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, germs can get into your body and make you sick.
- Carry tissues and hand sanitizer with you at all times.
- Avoid people who are
sick with a respiratory or stomach virus.
- Keep children home from school or childcare if they
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow, not into your hands.
- Clean surfaces such as doorknobs and phones regularly.
Even with all these safety measures, it is likely that some infections will be spread in schools and child care centers.
It is helpful if parents are judicious about keeping their sick kids home at the right times. Children should be kept home if they have diarrhea, vomiting or fever. Most child care facilities and schools have rules about when to keep kids home so be sure to review those policies prior to sending your child back to school or child care.
Encourage your child to wash his or her hands not only at home, but also at school, at friends’ homes, and everywhere else. Make hand washing fun by teaching them to sing a song like “Happy Birthday” while they wash their hands. Remember frequent hand washing is a great habit that will keep them healthy all season long and into the next!
Erica Jones is an infection control nurse and the Infection Prevention Coordinator at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital.