The stores are filled with paper, pens, binders and backpacks. Every second ad on TV and the radio is announcing their big back to school sale. Back-To School season is in full swing. Unfortunately as kids are sharing stories of their summer adventures, they are also sharing something else – germs!
Like clockwork, 2-3 weeks after the first day of school, we see a spike in the number of people suffering from colds and flu. This increase in cold and flu cases is often referred to as ‘week 37 syndrome’ as the 37th week marks two weeks after the first day of school. Hospitals and clinics often plan to increase staff to accommodate the number of visits due to illness caused by colds and flu.
What can you do to protect your family from getting sick? Here are a few basic steps you can take to protect your family and co-workers.
- Review proper sneezing and coughing etiquette. Teach that it is never ok to cough in your bare hands. It’s concerning how people still do this! Teach to use a tissue when possible and cough in the crook of your elbow, where germs can stay trapped, and can’t spread from one person to another.
- Teach to wash hands after recess and before and after lunch. If access to soap and water is not possible, pack a hand sanitizer bottle in their lunchbag and backpack.
- Teach everyone to apply soap on both sides of their hands. By applying soap on both sides, it forces the person to spend more time lathering and rinsing. This is a handy trick to prevent the ‘quick rinse under the running tap of water’ that many kids perform.
- Pack a washable placemat in their lunchbag. Placing food on the placemat, prevents possible contact with a contaminated desk or table.
- Have everyone wash their hands as soon as they get home, before they touch the TV remote, computer mouse, gaming console or fridge door.
- Remind everyone that backpacks and computer bags should never be placed on the same surface that you eat or prepare food. That means do not place them on kitchen table or kitchen countertops. Have a designated spot for the backpack and computer bags. Do you know what was the last surface that the bottom of the backback touched?
- Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer handy in the kitchen. Easier for everyone to perform hand hygiene after they touch a pet or before the empty a dishwasher of clean dishes when hand sanitizer is readily available.
- Designate a day of the week to clean and disinfect germ hot spots around the house and office. This will include TV remote, fridge and microwave door hands, light switches, computer mouse and smart devices.
- Change toothbrushes frequently to prevent it from becoming a source of germ transfer.
- Establish good sleeping and eating habits as they contribute to a healthy immune system. The first few weeks back to school can be difficult to develop a healthy routine.
- When friends come over and share snacks, try to give each their portion either by having their own serving size bowl or plate. Many hands in the same snack bag usually leads to a fast sharing of both snacks and germs!
- Have everyone take off their shoes at the door. This prevents germs on the bottom of the shoes from being spread throughout the house
Following good hygiene habits are the most important steps to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Take the time to educate your loved ones on how to prevent the spread of illness. No one wants to deal with a sick loved one!