Back to articles

Parenting tips: Outsmart school germs

Body, Kids' Health, Show on Corporate Home

When your little one heads into the classroom to pick up newfound knowledge and skills, they might also pick something else up: school germs.

We tend to see an uptick nationally in cold and flu illnesses when classes resume each fall. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 22 million school days are lost each year due to colds compared to 38 million schools days caused by the flu.

And when one of your kiddos gets sick, your whole family is more likely to come down with the same bug, which can make for a very long autumn, winter and spring.

So why not try getting ahead of the problem this year? Use these parenting tips to prevent school germs from following your child home.

Encourage clean hands at school

When hand washing becomes a habit, it’s a surprisingly effective germ-fighting tool. Unlike hand sanitizer products (an option when a sink isn’t handy), washing hands with soap and water reduces all types of germs, along with any grime kids may happen to get on their hands throughout the course of a school day.

But while it seems simple enough, many kids (and adults) may not know the proper way to wash their hands. So share these five steps—one for every finger on a hand—with your schoolkids:

  1. Wet your hands under the faucet (you can use warm or cold water), and then turn off the tap.
  2. Apply soap and rub your hands together to make a lather. Scrub everywhere, including the backs of the hands and under the fingernails.
  3. Keep scrubbing for at least 20 seconds—that’s about how long it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  4. Turn the water back on and rinse all the sudsy soap off your hands.
  5. Dry your hands with a clean paper towel, or air-dry them.

On top of teaching them how to wash their hands properly, it’s important to remind your kids when to wash their hands. Tell them that at school they should scrub up:

  • Before eating snacks or lunch.
  • After using the toilet.
  • After blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing.

At home, kids should wash their hands after doing any of the above as well as:

  • When they get home from school.
  • Before helping in the kitchen.
  • After taking out the trash.
  • After feeding or touching a pet.

They should also wash their hands after being around someone with a cold or other illness.

Other ways to conquer classroom germs

Another back-to-school supply you might consider? Sanitizing hand wipes. Kids can use them to wipe down their desks and school supplies.

It’s also a good idea to:

  • Supply your kids with tissues. Teach them to cover their coughs and sneezes with the tissue (or an arm, in a pinch). This will help keep other students healthy.
  • Get a yearly flu shot for you and your children.
  • Keep kids home when they’re sick. Your child’s healthcare provider can help answer any questions you may have about when kids should stay home because of illness.

Home alone?

Do your kids stay home alone after school? Check out these suggestions to keep them safe until you’re home from work.