While the start of a school year is an exciting time for kids – they’re anticipating new friends and adventures – it’s also when they encounter a multitude of illness-causing organisms in their classroom environments.
Notably, germs that cause colds and flu have the capacity to survive on common surfaces in classrooms for up to 72 hours, and children can touch and retouch over 300 surfaces in just a 30-minute period, according to data compiled by the Alliance of Consumer Education. This delivers an almost “perfect storm” situation for kids who experience nearly 22 million lost school days annually in the United States – due to contagion from cold viruses alone.
While it’s impossible to completely avoid germs and bacteria, SoFHA physicians believe there are steps you can take to minimize your child’s chances of getting sick. Listed below are basic tips that will help your family achieve a healthier, happier and more productive household in the upcoming school year.
Teach your child:
- Why it’s important not to share food or drinks (even water bottles) with others.
- The importance of regular hand-washing before eating and each time after using the restroom, sneezing or playing outside.
- Proper hand-washing technique: Use warm water and liquid or foam soap and lather for 20 seconds – which is how long it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
- To always cough and sneeze into his/her sleeve and to avoid touching or rubbing the eyes, nose and mouth. (Cold viruses commonly enter the body through these openings.)
- How to sneeze, cough or blow into a clean tissue (when one is available) and how to dispose of the used tissue properly.
Other tips for parents:
- If soap and water aren’t available, have family members use hand sanitizers that are at least 60 percent alcohol. We don’t recommend products labeled “antimicrobial” or “antibacteria,” because of concerns about germs becoming resistant.
- Make sure all family members ages six months and older receive the flu vaccine annually. This immunization is newly developed each year in anticipation of viruses expected to occur. Even if you’ve built up immunity to one virus due to your entire family having contracted an illness, you aren’t immune to other viruses or strains.
- If either you or your child is sick, stay home for at least another 24 hours after there’s no longer a fever or signs of a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicine).
- Disinfect and sanitize high-traffic areas in your home – particularly tables, toys, handrails and other frequently touched surfaces.