Your child has been healthy all summer and now that school is back, she’s sick. Not again… You go through this every year. “Why is my child always sick?” you ask yourself. How can you avoid the back to school germs and keep your child from getting sick? These four keep kids healthy tips from a doctor are all you need!
I remember my first year as teacher. I started strong, but then, two weeks in I got hit with the worst stomach bug in my life. Seriously, it knocked me down on the couch for 3 days!
Once I recovered, I caught a massive cold – sniffling, coughing and sneezing for what seemed like weeks. After being around adults for most of my professional life, this switch to the classroom exposed to me to more germs than my immune system could handle.
Kids go through this too when they transition back to school. But, its not like kids carry stronger germs. Regardless of your age, a germ is a germ. So, what gives?
I asked Dr. Wendy Bernatavicius, Director of Complex Care Clinic and Interim Division Chief of General Pediatrics at Phoenix Children’s Hospital what we as parents can do to keep kids healthy. Her response was incredibly simple.
Kids need to wash their hands before putting them in their mouth.
That’s it. Easier said than done, right? However, as parents, we have no control over how many times they wash their hands at school. Plus, do they even have access to a sink?
Let’s take this step-by-step. First,
Talk to your child
First, your child needs to understand the importance of hand washing before eating. When it comes down to it, we can’t hold them down and wash their hands. Nor with constant nagging work. The best we can do is set the example and start a hand washing routine with them at home.
According to the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, the start of every habit needs a cue – something that signals your brain to engage in the desired activity. For example, for hand washing, a typical cue is using the restroom. Every time you use a toilet, wash your hands. Once you do this enough, it becomes automatic so you don’t even have to think about it.
Before meals at home (or out), start the habit of washing hands. Sometimes, this isn’t feasible though. What if you are out and a sink is inconvenient? We as humans are lazy creatures. If something is too hard, we don’t do it. No shame… it’s just how we are. What then?
Carry Hand Sanitizer
Even though hand washing is the preferred way to stop the spread of germs, Dr. Wendy says hand sanitizer comes in a close second. When you carry around a small bottle of hand sanitizer, you can easily pull it out before a meal.
Your kids will get used to using hand sanitizer before eating so that pretty soon, it feels odd to them not to clean their hands before eating. Perfect, that’s what we want.
Give hand sanitizer to classroom
When I was a teacher, I never felt there was enough time in the day. We would finish up a math lesson before lunch, madly put away all our supplies and then race out the door for recess. I couldn’t imagine taking the time for 25 children to wash their hands before lunch. That would be an extra 15 minutes that we just didn’t have.
What we did have time for though, was a hand sanitizer job. Once my students lined up at the door, one student took the role of hand sanitizer and pumped a little into each student’s hands as they walked past.
Many schools have hand sanitizer also stationed at the door to the cafeteria. These schools have kids use hand sanitizer the moment they walk through the doors.
Talk to your child’s teacher. Do they use hand sanitizer before lunch? Is there a hand sanitizer station in the cafeteria? If not, lobby the PTO or school district to get them.
Keep Kids Home
Often, the best way to stop the spread of illness is to be proactive. When your child is sick, the best thing to do is keep them at home. It’s hard though as a parent and our kids are sometimes really good at faking illness. We never know whether to send them or keep them home, right?
I always question myself too.
If your child has a fever or is throwing up, keep them home. Those are the two markers that schools use whether or not to call you.
The biggest way to prevent your child from getting sick is to have them wash their hands before eating. That’s it. It sounds so simple, yet so hard for you to control. By talking with your child and giving them their own hand sanitizer, you can help keep them as healthy as possible.