Moms know it’s hard enough to keep kids away from germs when they’re at home. But during school hours, your little ones come across all different kinds of germ-filled situations. So how do you go about teaching your kids to avoid germs during the school day, or while they’re playing sports afterward?
“We live in a world of germs and you’re going to be exposed to them; it’s just a matter of trying to protect yourself as much as you can,” says Sandi Delack, RN, BSN, M ED, NCSN, a practicing school nurse in Rhode Island and president-elect for the National Association of School Nurses. “There are things you can do to minimize your risk,” says Delack, like washing your hands, and keeping your hands out of your mouth, eyes, and nose.
However, it takes a lot of repeating to get that message into kids’ heads, Delack says. “They have to hear it over and over, and they need to hear it at school, they need to hear it at home.” The earlier kids get the message the easier it’ll be on parents. “I’ll see kids walking down the hall all the time with the tie to their sweat shirt or their chain in their mouth and I’ll say, ‘Do you know how many germs are on that? Take that out of your mouth!’”
The bus ride to and from school is fraught with opportunities for close encounters of the germ kind. Delack says parents should be sure to tell kids that this is one time sharing isn’t a good thing -- so don’t share drinks or snacks; older kids should even be wary of talking on friend’s cell phone (or using it to text) if that friend has a cold.
Kids should also try to keep book bags off the floor, Delack says. And, parents need to set up a space far away from the kitchen counter or kitchen table -- anywhere food is prepared -- to stash school bags when kids get home.
So many classroom activities involve hand-to-hand contact: things like passing papers back down the row, or sharing pencils, pens, scissors and other tools. But it’s not touching things that belong to other kids that’s the problem, it’s what kids do after they touch an item. “The important part is they’re not putting their hands in their mouth and in their nose,” Delack says. That’s how germs have a chance to enter the body and that’s really how you get sick.
To counteract bacteria, many teachers purchase bulk supplies of hand sanitizer and tissues, then make them available to students throughout the year. Some schools ask each student to bring a box of tissues and a bottle of hand sanitizer and create the year’s supply that way. The key for parents is to remind kids to go get a tissue from the box or use the hand sanitizer when they need to.