Avoiding Infections when Returning to School
Back-to-school is widely recognized in the medical community as a time
when many children pick up viral and other infections from their
classmates. With swine flu circulating throughout the United States, it
is especially important to follow good hygiene practices to reduce the
chances of catching the swine flu, seasonal flu or other infections.
Try the following tips to help protect your children, and
yourself, from the flu.
Wash your hands often. Hands are the biggest culprits in disease transmission. One of the most
common ways people catch colds and the flu is by touching a
contaminated surface, then rubbing their noses or their eyes. Wash your
hands often, especially:
- before, during, and after you prepare food
- before you eat, and after you use the bathroom
- after handling animals or animal waste
- when your hands are dirty, and
- more frequently when someone in your home is sick,
Avoid unnecessary contact with a lot of people.
It isn't always easy to tell when people are sick, and some people are
contagious even before they have symptoms, so avoid large crowds of
people if you can.
Avoid close contact with people when you are sick.
It isn't really possible to completely avoid people who are sick. But
you can help fight the problem if you avoid exposing other people to
your germs when you or your kids are sick. So don't go to school,
daycare, work, etc., if you are sick.
Teach your children 'cough etiquette'.
Teach children to turn their heads and cough or sneeze into a
disposable tissue or the inside of their elbow if they don't have a
tissue, instead of simply coughing or sneezing onto their hands, which
will then spread their germs onto everything they touch.
Clean, clean, clean. Routinely
clean, with soap and water, and disinfect surfaces, toys, and objects
that younger children may put in their mouths. It may also help to wipe
surfaces with paper towels that can be thrown away or cloth towels that
can be washed afterwards.
Water fountains can be the enemy. Take
a reusable water bottle to school, instead of using the school water
fountain, which may become contaminated with germs, especially during
cold and flu season.
This information has been approved by Kirstin Carel, MD (August 2009).