Arizona kids have been back to school for weeks now, each day returning with new stories about their friends and teachers, new assignments and homework, and something that’s difficult to spot at first…new germs and illness!
Teachers refer to it as the “Back to School Plague” and it affects more than just the kids. Everyone, including adults, plays a role in the spreading of germs at school. It seems to hit hard at the beginning of the year as most kids have spent their summers away from large groups of people. Now, they’re suddenly exposed to germs from hundreds of other people in relatively close quarters.
It’s easy to assume that school bathrooms are the biggest culprit in the spreading of germs and illness. But because bathrooms are cleaned on a regular basis, they aren’t as dangerous as you might think. Experts say drinking fountains top the list of places with the most germs. This is usually because drinking fountains don’t get disinfected as often as they should. Plus, we all know that kids have a tendency to get a little too close to the spout when drinking from a fountain.
To help your kids avoid picking up germs at the drinking fountain, encourage them to let the water run for a second or two before they begin to drink. They can also bring water bottles from home.
Another danger zone for germs is the cafeteria tray. Not only are the trays passed around and touched by several people each day, research also shows that the trays aren’t cleaned as thoroughly as they should be. It’s a good idea to have kids use hand-sanitizer before they touch their food.
The Age of Touch
School kids are at just the right age when the concern of where their hands and fingers have been just doesn’t seem to matter. Not only are they frequently touching surfaces, shared toys, and books, they’re also constantly touching their faces, mouths and each other.
This is exactly how germs are spread. Young children, who haven’t had the chance to build up their immune system yet, aren’t able to fight off these germs and get sick.
It’s a tough dilemma. We don’t necessarily want to completely scare children when it comes to germs. We don’t want to make them paranoid. Still, there is a need to teach kids the importance of staying healthy. After all, germs aren’t nearly as harmful to those who are healthy.
Stay Focused on the Healthy Stuff
Parents can help by continuing to focus on all of the healthy habits they have learned over the years. This includes making sure your kids get a good night’s sleep. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that school-aged children get an average of 10 hours of sleep each night. Good sleep helps to boost the immune system and restores energy.
Make sure your kids are getting plenty of vitamins and nutrients. Vitamin C, for example, can help cut a cold short should your child catch one. It’s also a good idea to get a flu shot early in the season. Be sure you’re discussing the importance of these steps with your children so they gain an understanding for themselves.
Remind your kids to wash their hands frequently, cough or sneeze in their elbows, and stay bundled up when it’s cold outside. All of these small things can add up quickly when trying to avoid sickness.
In the end, there’s really no way to protect 100% from germs. Inevitably, your child is going to drink from the dirty drinking fountain or come in contact with another kid who has the flu. It’s more effective to help your kids focus on staying healthy so that when they do in come in contact with germs, they are able to fight them off quickly.