Share these germ-avoidance strategies for school children with parents

September 13, 2006

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 22 million school days are lost annually from the common cold. The CDC also reports that students who fail to practice proper hand hygiene miss, on average, 3.02 days every school year because of contagious illness. Add to that fact these two observations: One-fifth of the population of the United States attends or works in a school and some bacteria can live two hours or longer on such surfaces as cafeteria tables and desks!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 22 million school days are lost annually from the common cold. The CDC also reports that students who fail to practice proper hand hygiene miss, on average, 3.02 days every school year because of contagious illness. Add to that fact these two observations: One-fifth of the population of the United States attends or works in a school and some bacteria can live two hours or longer on such surfaces as cafeteria tables and desks!

But there is advice that you can give to parents to help keep their children from gathering up germs at school.

Helpful tips for parents to give to their students include:

  • Wash hands with soap and warm water for about 20 seconds. No soap and water handy? Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. (Many schools now require that students have a pump dispenser of alcohol sanitizer alongside the usual crayons, scissors, and pocket folders; if hand sanitizer isn't required, consider keeping a supply anyway, in the knapsack or desk.)
  • Wash hands before eating, after using the bathroom, and after handling classroom pets
  • Wash hands more often when someone in the classroom is sick
  • Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing and coughing; throw the tissue away after one use to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses
  • Remember that germs lurk just about everywhere: doorknobs, desks, cafeteria tables, school bus seats and windows, computer keyboards, and pencil sharpeners. Wash hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after touching something in a "shared" area.
  • Get plenty of sleep and physical activity, drink plenty of water, and eat healthy foods to keep the immune system strong
  • Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your backpack or keep one in your desk.