Preventing the spread of germs

Submitted by Kelsi Clowdus, RN

Kids share germs. It’s just a fact. With school back in session, illnesses caused by viruses will be making their way around. Preventing the spread of germs and disease is easier than treating illness once it occurs. Protect your child and stop germs in their tracks with these proven tips:

  • Wash your hands! Hand washing may be the simplest most effective tool against germs. Remind your child to wash their hands before they eat, after using the restroom, playing on the playground or blowing their nose.  Teach proper hand washing technique with soap and water, sing the “happy birthday” song twice and don’t forget to dry hands with a paper towel.
  • Vaccinate. Make sure children stay current with vaccinations. Before vaccines, many children died from diseases, such as pertussis or “whooping cough”, measles and polio,  that vaccines now prevent. Those same diseases still exist. In fact, pertussis has made a comeback in part from waning immunity in adults and adolescents. If you haven’t had a Tdap booster, get one!
  • Practice healthy habits. Encourage your child to eat a healthy, balanced diet, drink water and get plenty of sleep – experts recommend between 9 and 12 hours of sleep for kids ages 5 to 12.
  • Take care to cover. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze with a tissue and don’t forget to wash your hands after discarding. If you can’t get to a tissue in time, remind children to cough or sneeze into the crook of their elbow – never their hands. Speaking of coverage, if your child has an open sore, keep it clean and covered with a bandage to prevent infection.
  • Curb the urge to chew. Remind children not to put pencils, pens, crayons or even fingers in their mouths or near their eyes.  Many germs live under the fingernails so biting your nails is a big no no!  Most all items are generally covered with germs and the mouth and eyes are prime entry points into their body for germs.
  • Sharing isn’t always caring. Refrain from sharing personal items, food or drinks. Sharing is great, but sharing personal items can spread germs that could make your child sick.
  • NEVER send a sick child to school. Illness is rarely convenient. Regardless of your schedule, if your child is running a fever, vomiting, or has diarrhea keep them home. Children that are lethargic, complain of pain or not acting “themselves” may also need to take a sick day. Allow your children to be fever free for twenty-four hours prior to sending them back to school.
While these tips may be short and sweet, your child can only benefit from them. Keeping them healthy while in school promotes learning and healthy brain activity. These helpful tips can only lead to a successful school year.

Kelsi Clowdus, RN is the Case Management Coordinator and Infection Control Nurse at Hamilton General Hospital.