For those of you in my neck of the woods, school starts next week. For others, this may be your first or second week of having to listen to your tweens complain about their teachers, or how “Robby” broke their heart. Next week, my son starts pre-school and while he’s been in a home-based daycare since he was 9 months old, next week he moves from 4 kids of varying ages to a class of 16 3 – 4 year olds who if they are anything like my little devil use the back of their hand or their sleeve to wipe their runny nose.
Most people are aware that daycares and schools are breeding grounds for infections, particularly colds, flus and intestinal illnesses. It’s inevitable that children will “share” their germs in the daycare or school environment for the simple factor of proximity. Close contact besides helping to spread germs can also help to build up a child’s immunity. There are of course, a few simple precautions that can help keep kids (and yourself!) healthy as they head back to school.
1. Teaching kids to keep their hands clean is the number one way to avoid sick days. I now sound like my mother “Wash your hands before we eat”, “Wash your hands after playing in the sandbox”, “Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom!” Why do boys think because they can pee standing up they do not need to wash their hands?
2. Teach kids the importance of not to sharing hats, brushes, towels, washcloths, eye makeup or eye drops with other people. What better way for pink eye or lice to spread!
3. Keep their area clean. Like cleaning their hands, cleaning their desk top before eating can help reduce spread of intestinal illness. I suppose germs could be a source of protein for those picky eaters, but for their health and yours, its best if avoided.
A study published in August 2011 in American Journal of Infection Control, reported that after students ages 5 to 15 received one lesson in hand hygiene where they learned to sanitize their hands with alcohol hand sanitizer three times during the school day, the number of kids who missed four or more school days due to illness dropped by 66 percent. What’s more, the researchers also reported a 20 percent rise in the number of kids with perfect attendance, compared to the previous school year. Other studies show that kids—and their parents--stay healthier if children wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 to 30 seconds (the length of time it takes to say the alphabet or sing Happy Birthday) several times a day to scrub away germs.
Let’s consider the common cold. Kindergarteners average 12 colds a year, while older kids develop about seven. The cold season runs from September to March, making these the highest risk months (no wonder we all look forward to spring!). The virus that causes this upper respiratory tract can live for several hours on contaminated objects, such as door handles, books, pens, or a computer keyboard or mouse. How do we stop the spread? Along with frequent hand washing (especially before eating), taking a reusable water bottle to school instead of using the water fountain can reduce kids’ risk for colds and other infections since the parts of the fountain that students touch can become contaminated with germs. If your kids catch a cold, teach them to sneeze or cough into a tissue (or the inside of their elbow, if they don’t have a tissue) instead of their hands, so they don’t spread the virus to everything they touch. Finally, including disinfection of all commonly touched surfaces such as desks, door handles, faucets, etc once per day will go a long way to preventing transmission.
If you have kids heading back to school, I hope unlike me you have your shopping done. If not, and you happen to come across an Angry Birds Knapsack, give me a call!