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Back to school means lots of new things, like pens, notebooks — and germs. While no kid wants to bring home homework, no parents want their kid to bring home a cold. So here’s a lesson on back to school health.
“Germs are spread unintentionally all over school — kids touch everything, share books and small spaces, and sneeze and cough,” says Marje Barry, RN, BSN, CCRN of Mission Viejo, Calif. Keeping the bugs at bay can be a challenge, so parents need to teach their kids some healthy basics and stock up on supplies now.
“There’s no avoiding germs at school,” adds Elizabeth Welsby, mother of three in Chapel Hill, NC. “You just remind your kids to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer before they eat.”
Clean hands may seem obvious, but Barry insists it’s key to good back to school health. “Nothing kills germs and the spread of germs better than traditional soap and water,” she says.
To keep your student healthy all year long, follow these helpful germ-fighting tips:
To assist her kids in practicing good back to school health, Welsby attaches little hand sanitizers to their lunchboxes. “That makes it super easy for them to remember to sanitize their hands before they eat snack or lunch,” she says. “These little hand sanitizers have become ‘cool’ for the girls and are available in endless colors and fragrances.” Travel-size bottles of soap serve the same purpose.
Lynne Skinner, a mother of two in Austin, TX, chips in with other parents to buy huge bottles of hand sanitizer and soap for the classroom at the beginning of the year. “That way teachers can always have two or three around the room, and for when kids have to wash their hands at the big sink on the way to lunch,” she says. Or pitch in by sending your student to school with wipes for spills and other messes.
Another key to back to school health is dental care. While it’s unlikely you’re going to get your kid to brush after lunch and snack, a travel-size bottle of mouthwash and some dental floss easily fit in a vinyl envelope for stowing in backpacks. A quick swish after eating does help reduce germs and flush food.
Starting the year off with a few healthy rules is important for preventing illness, Barry says. Plus you’re building good habits. “Kids are learning how to make lifestyle choices about health, diet and exercise that they will carry for the rest of their lives.”
Beyond germs, safety is another element of back to school health that all parents worry about. Consider these tips for keeping your children safe:
“Most kids are inherently good, but they are unaware of the consequences of being too trusting of friends they don’t really know, sharing too much information online, or getting drawn into places [online]” says Russ Warner, CEO of ContentWatch, a Salt Lake City developer of Internet protection solutions for home, school and work. Using filtered Web browsers that restrict access to certain types of sites can help. “They allow parents to establish rules, set guidelines and partially rely on software to help them with ongoing monitoring,” Warner notes.
Knowing where your kids are is important, and most families have check-in systems like texting or calling once they’ve arrived home safely. Several mobile apps provide location-based information, including personal safety alarms or text, video and GPS tracking. Families with home security systems can also rely on key-code check-ins.
”Kids often bully, criticize, tease and harass each other at school and online, and schools and adults should have zero tolerance for these behaviors,” says Marje Barry, RN, BSN, CCRN of Mission Viejo, CA. But it’s sometimes hard to know when it’s happening to your child. Warner suggests installing social network monitors to help you know what your children are saying and what is being said about them online.