Small Tips to Prevent School Sickess
October 9, 2017
Schools are like night clubs for germs. They are filled to the brim, and almost everything is covered in some sort of bacteria. This can make keeping your child healthy throughout the school year seemingly impossible. In fact, 22 million school days are lost in America each year due to colds and flus alone. While the occasional cold can’t be prevented with 100% efficiency, in this article we are going to discuss a few ways to keep your child from getting sick throughout the year.
If any of this seems like common sense, that’s because it is… or it should be. Unfortunately, even in our health-conscious culture, schools don’t go through nearly as much sanitation as they should. In 2005, in the CBS article linked above, it was reported that 7 out of every 10 classrooms were not regularly disinfected by custodial staff. While this has surely improved over the past 12 years, the number of absences taken each year has not wavered. Unfortunately, the responsibility for a child’s health falls mostly on the child, and the parent by proxy.
One of the major factors leading to child sickness and the stability of absences is the amount of touching children like to do. The Alliance for Consumer Education reports that children touch and retouch over 300 surfaces in the span of 30 minutes. Can you think of 300 surfaces in 30 minutes? Now that you surely have, consider your child touching that surface. And every other child in their school. Especially that one kid who leaks snot like a mucusy waterfall.
This is why handwashing is so important. We all know to do it in public bathrooms, but the germs don’t stay at the door. If one child has the flu, they could have touched almost anything else in your student’s vicinity. And the flu isn’t the only thing you have to worry about: a study performed in 2003 showed that children who regularly washed their hands developed physically, mentally, and socially at an accelerated rate.
As a corollary to the importance of washing our hands, it’s important to understand where else those germs can go. It doesn’t seem that necessary when we believe the germs are staying on our hands, but they end up in several other places. People, and children especially, touch their hand to their face and/or mouth over 3000 times in the average day.
This provides germs another 3000 opportunities to sneak into our immune system. If your child has a habit of touching their face, rubbing their eyes, or biting their nails, you may want to break it. It may not seem bad on the surface, but it can lead to deeper issues.
The Cough Cave
When we cough or sneeze, it expels bacteria. In the case of a sneeze, these germs can travel up to a mile. Coughing or sneezing in the open is the easiest way to contaminate the air, and coughing or sneezing into your hands can lead to the germs being spread all around the school and house. This is the cause for the increasing popularity of “the cough cave,” which is another way to keep our hands clean.
Teaching your child to cough or sneeze into their elbow is not immediately beneficial in most cases. However, the courtesy of doing so can quickly spread—stopping germs from doing the same. Additionally, this prevents them from putting germs they were previously rid of onto surfaces they will touch again. Germs can live for up to 72 hours on some surfaces, leaving many more chances for your child to get a cold or flu.
Don’t Burst Bubbles
As noted in the aforementioned CBS article, children love to share. While we teach that sharing is caring (and it certainly is), there need to be boundaries placed on that sentiment. Sharing food, drink, and even personal space can lead to more sickness all around. LiveScience published a report about why we need personal space for emotional reasons, but physical proximity also allows for the spread of germs. According to LiveScience, our sense of personal space is still developing during school years, so it’s important to discuss boundaries with your child.
Vaccines and Absentees
As we recently discussed in our Deeper Look series, vaccines are often the best thing we can do to prevent sickness. While they won’t prevent colds and flus, they can stop the more dangerous illnesses.
Of course, should your child become sick, you should keep them out of school. While sick days are often held back for late homework and family vacations, a sick child brings germs to school that can come back to bite even them.
In conclusion, sickness is born from germs, and germs love school. The best thing you can do to keep your child healthy is to help them maintain good habits such as washing their hands. If they do become sick, make sure to keep them home. If you keep germs out of your school, they’re less likely to end up in your home.