When children go back to school each year, they’re exposed to millions of germs. The immune systems of children aren’t as developed as an adults may be, making them much more susceptible to germs. In fact, colds are the number one illness sending kids to the hospital, with children averaging six to 10 colds each year. So what are some ways you can protect your child against germs when they go back to school?
Washing hands properly is by far the best way for your child to prevent getting sick. Germs that cause every illness from the common cold and influenza to meningitis and hepatitis A can be transferred if children fail to wash their hands regularly.
All it takes is contact with the droplets from a cough or sneeze, touching an infected surface, or coming in contact with a sick person’s fluids. A quick touch of the hands to the eyes, nose, or mouth and your child could become infected.
Here are some tips for washing hands properly that you can teach your children.
When to wash
- During flu season, frequent hand washing is advised simply to keep viruses at bay.
- As the adult in the household, it’s essential that you wash your hands before and after preparing food. This is especially the case if you are handling raw meat or eggs.
- Before eating is one of the most important times to teach your kids to wash up. Get your children in this habit to help prevent germs from entering their system.
- Wash up again after eating to prevent the spread of viruses throughout your home.
- Teach your children about washing hands properly after they use the bathroom.
- Get the habit of washing your hands after touching any contaminated surfaces or equipment such as soiled kitchen utensils, garbage, a dirty diaper, a used tissue, or an animal.
- Remember, children learn by example. This means if you set the example by washing your hands often and at the times you ask your children to wash their hands, they are more likely to follow suit.
How to wash
- Wash your hands under warm running water with soap.
- Lather the soap in your hands for about 20 seconds, being sure to get areas like between your fingers, the backs of your hands, your wrists, and under your fingernails. To make it more fun for the kids, teach them to sing “Happy Birthday” twice in a row before they rinse the soap off their hands.
- Rinse the soap off well and dry with a clean towel.
- When soap and water isn’t available, use antibacterial hand sanitizer gel or wipes. Rub your hands together until the moisture of the gel or wipe evaporates. There is no need to use water.
In addition to hand washing, there are a number of other ways you can your child stay healthy this school year.
Immunization is key
Despite recent debates about whether or not vaccinating your child is a good idea, providers still highly recommend getting your children immunized, even the non-mandatory flu shot. In fact, providers say even if you forget to get a flu shot for your child in the fall, it’s still beneficial to get one in the winter or even in the spring.
Wash your hands regularly
Remind your children to wash their hands on a regular basis. Viruses are spread as children rub their eyes and nose with the contagion on their hands. Unfortunately, studies show that not many students wash their hands even after using the restroom, so it’s a good idea to reiterate the importance to your child.
Sharing isn’t always caring
Children like to share everything. Whether it’s via their food or their lip balm, germs can be spread easily this way. Make sure your child knows that while sharing is typically a good thing, there are certain things that just shouldn’t be shared, including lotions, lip balms, razors, makeup, food and drinks.
Know where germs live
Certain places in schools contain more germs than others. For instance, the plastic trays used in the cafeteria that are handled by several kids each day are home to a number of germs. Water fountains, locker rooms, toilet seats, desks and doors are just a few of the high traffic areas where contagions reside.
If your child happens to catch a cold this school year, there are a few ways you can begin treating it immediately.
- First, you need to clear out the mucus using a nasal bulb or by having your child blow his or her nose regularly.
- You should then add moisture by using a saline spray inside the nasal passages or by utilizing a cool-mist humidifier.
- It’s essential that you keep your child hydrated if he or she isn’t feeling well. Not only will warm soups and other liquids help with a sore throat, hydration will also help loosen mucus.
- If your child is suffering from a fever—and it older then 6 months—you can give him or her Tylenol or Motrin. You shouldn’t ever give aspirin to a child. Be sure to follow the dosing instructions on the medication and make sure it’s specifically for children.
- To alleviate congestion, raise the head of your child’s bed. Petroleum jelly can be rubbed under your child’s nose to prevent chapping.
A cold will typically go away on its own, so it’s important to be patient. Be sure to treat any symptoms your child has to keep him or her comfortable during this time. To keep your child’s symptom from worsening, try to avoid irritants such as cigarette smoke. An air purifier can also help keep dust an irritants out of the air in your home.
CareNow® can help if cold symptoms don't let up
Prevent your child from getting a viral illness this year by taking him or her to CareNow® for immunizations.
Also be sure to check in online to avoid the waiting room!
Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.