The facts: Americans touch about 300 different surfaces every half hour. Eighty percent of infections are spread through hand contact. About 22 million school days are lost each year due to contagious illness.
Germs (microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses) are found in all sorts of places like your home, your car, at school and even in your office. The good news is that a majority of these pathogens are not harmful. The bad news is that the ones that are harmful are either bacterial or viral, which can cause all sorts of ailments ranging from the common cold to a potential life-threatening infection.
At school, kids are exposed to a variety of contagious germs, such as colds, flu, respiratory viruses, strep throat, hand foot and mouth disease, eczema, rashes, and many more.
Now that our “kiddies” are back at school, it’s time to face the fact that contagious germs are always present in their everyday routine. Everything from doorknobs, cell phones, desktops, and computer keyboards will all be harboring the germs we try so hard to fight. Even at home, when those germy shoes touch our welcome mats and the backpacks pile up on the countertops, the germs begin to light our homes up like a beautifully decorated tree.
Most adults are well informed on the spread of germs and the effects they have on our health and most of us know how to wash our hands and when to clean and use hand sanitizer. But do our children even know what a germ IS? Are they washing their hands properly, or at all? Do they even care about something they cannot even see with the naked eye? Unless we follow our children around all day long, we may never know the real truth.
What I do know is that if we keep educating our children at home, they have a better chance of learning how to take care of themselves. Now, where do we start?
How about with a joke about germs: “Why did the germ cross the microscope? To get to the other side!”
For the youngsters, since they love the “good guys” and dislike the “bad guys,” we can explain how germs live everywhere, on our skin, teeth, hair, pets, clothes and toys. We can talk about the bad germs and how they can make you cough and sneeze, which can spread to your family and friends. Youngsters can learn to get rid of the “bad guy germs” by washing their hands. Teach them that by washing their hands they will keep themselves healthy.
For our tween generation, there is a wonderful science experiment using hand lotion and glitter. It’s quite messy, but it shows how germs (the glitter) easily spread to all the things that you touched, and that quickly wiping your hands with a towel will get some of the germs off, but most of them stay on your hands. The experiment shows how proper handwashing removes germs easily.
No matter how old our children are, the message is the same:
Wash your hands throughout the day, especially before you eat, after you use the bathroom, after you touch animals, after you sneeze, use the phone, or play with your toys. Wash your hands also when you come home, after you play outside, or use the computer.
Wash your hands first by wetting them with water. Next put soap on your hands. While rubbing your hands together, count slowly to twenty, MAKING SURE you get the back of your hands, fingers, wrist, and fingernails. Next wet your hands to get rid of the water. Finally, dry your hands.
When washing their hands with soap and water may not be an option, teach youngsters to wipe their hands well with hand sanitizer. Kids usually find it easier to use sanitizer than washing their hands because it’s quicker and convenient in a classroom environment or during after-school activities. Throw a few bottles in the kids’ backpacks and have them keep one in their locker, one in their gym bag and one in their desk. Be sure to instruct them on how to use it properly.
When tissues seem to be scarce, covering your cough or even sneezing into the crease of your elbow also helps prevent the spread of germs. Immediately washing your hands after is even better! Repetition and reinforcement on these issues may be needed for the younger generations.
If at all possible, teach your children not to touch their face, ears, or even nose that much throughout the day. Germs love to enter these access points into our bodies.