With school starting back up, you will likely also welcome in some unwanted guests: germs. Imagine children exchanging chewed-on pencils, swapping half-eaten snacks and sealing deals with “spit shakes,” and you'd understand why you should be concerned.
Besides making sure kids take their vitamins and get plenty of rest, is there anything a parent can do to stop the germs from spreading through their family?
Tips to fighting germs
According to Mark Pyle, MD, at Banner Health Center-Verrado, in Buckeye, Ariz., a flu shot is key to protecting yourself from the worst illnesses of the season.
He also offers these tips to keep viruses from spreading:
- Practice certain habits like sneezing or coughing into an elbow. Also, avoid contact with your own eyes, nose and mouth.
- Wash hands often, especially after blowing your nose or coughing. Be sure to throw away used tissues immediately. To properly wash hands, use warm water and soap. Scrub both hands for at least 20 seconds and dry with a single-use towel.
- Dozens of surfaces in your home that your family touches every day could have germs. This includes countertops, telephones, computer keyboards, faucets and doorknobs. Viruses can survive on these surfaces for several hours, so use disinfectant wipes or sprays to eliminate the offending germs.
- Build up your immune system by eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Also, make sure you get adequate rest and exercise regularly to reduce stress.
By following these tips, you can hopefully reduce the amount of sickness in your family or the length of the illness. Be sure to check out our two other Ask the Expert columns on other common school-spread conditions—pink eye and head lice.
If parents recognize and quickly treat these conditions, the better chance our children will have a happy—and healthy—school year.