School has begun and while kids are excited to be back in the classroom, germs are able to spread more quickly. Penny Varner, ARNP, a child and safety expert at St Joseph’s Children’s Hospital took some time to talk to us about the one thing on every parent’s mind this school season: germs.
Is it just our imagination, or do kids get way more sick once school starts?
Its not just your imagination. Kids do get more sick once school starts because there are more children together in an enclosed space and they are touching many of the same things like doorknobs, desks, pencils and things like that. So there is definitely more opportunity for germs to be spread among the children.
How do you keep kids from picking up all of those germs? Is hand washing enough?
Hand washing with soap and running water is the best method for cleaning your hands. If there isn’t soap and water available then hand sanitzers are the next best thing. It is important to have kids wash their hands frequently, particularly when they get to school, before they eat and after they eat, and before they leave to come home. That can help the kids keep their hands clean and hopefully diminish the spread of germs a little bit and also hopefully help prevent them from bringing germs home to their parents and other siblings.
Is there anything else kids should be doing to prevent germs? Is sharing okay?
Certainly if kids need to sneeze, they should sneeze into their sleeves or elbows instead of their hands. We were all taught when we were little to put your hand over your mouth when you sneeze or cough but we know now that it is better to sneeze into your arm or into your sleeve because you aren’t touching with that area of your arm. Also make sure that they are using tissues if they have a runny nose. Those are all good things to help slow down the spread of germs within a classroom setting. It is still okay to share things — I hate to discourage sharing because it is a good thing.
Are there any places that parents or teachers might not think of in the classroom where germs are easily spread?
I think certainly using a cleaning solution on things like desktops, light switches, door knobs, telephones, remote controls, computer keyboards is important. Those are all places that you would see more germs on than we would like to imagine.
When kids aren’t careful about germs, what are the most common types of sicknesses they can get?
I think probably colds are the biggest things we see. You can also see flu during flu season because it spreads very easily as well.