A Lesson on Staying Healthy at School

If you want to a test an individual’s immune system, put them in a classroom because if ever there were breeding grounds of illness and infections, schools – especially preschools and Elementary – would be it. It only takes one sick child to spread a virus through the hallways and into classrooms. Being in close quarters, poor hygiene habits, and the continued use of shared items and facilities, from pencils to toilets, make schools a hotbed for contagious illnesses. Some children frequently fall sick, while others in the same class rarely get a sniffle. If you’re a parent with a child in the first group, you’ll want to heighten your awareness of proactive health measures your child can take, and teach and encourage them to bring that awareness with them to school.

First and foremost, as always, is hand-washing. This is not only the most effective precaution children and adults can take to prevent illness but it’s also the simplest. Hand-washing should occur before and after eating, before and after using the bathroom, after coughing or sneezing, and before and after playing outside. Make sure your child understands that hand-washing is more than running dirty hands under the water for five seconds. An effective hand-wash involves soap and at least about 10 or 15 seconds of lathering. A good tip is to teach your child to sing “Happy Birthday” while lathering the soap. Anything less may not tackle all the dirt or bacteria. Consistent hand-washing isn’t always convenient throughout the day, so arm your child with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for their classroom or book sack. This is convenient enough for them to use even when handling classroom objects like computer keyboards or pencil sharpeners.

Another key tip to health safety at school is covering the mouth or nose when coughing or sneezing. Teach your child to use a tissue rather than their hands. Viruses thrive on uncovered coughs or sneezes to work their way through the classroom as small microscopic droplets sail into the atmosphere and quickly infect those vulnerable around them. By protecting coughs and sneezes with a tissue, the potentially infectious droplets go where they belong. Forgoing the tissue can ultimately be counterproductive to preventing a spread, unless your child effectively scrubs or sanitizes their hands immediately afterward.

Just because you teach your child how to be a good hand-washer and sneezer doesn’t mean that anyone else has done the same, so reinforce the idea of sanitizing shared objects and resisting the exchange of personal items, such as drinks or utensils. Also, tell your child to keep their hands away from their eyes and mouth as much as possible.

There are obvious behavioral steps students can take to ensure that they are able to go through school happily and healthily, but these habits should not be limited to school only. Good sanitation is also important at home, as well as eating balanced and nutritious meals, participating in physical rather than sedentary activities, and staying update on required immunizations. All of these things will give you and your child the best shot at a happy and healthy life.

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