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Stopping Germs in the Bathroom

One conspicuously dirty place in any school is the restroom. Although some adults work hard to minimize their contact with any surface in the restroom, using paper towels to turn on taps or press the lever to flush a toilet, parents have to help kids think that way. Some schools have installed restroom doors that swing open and shut, allowing students to use a shoulder, elbow or hip to enter the bathroom so they don’t have to touch the door with their hands.

With so many sinks, washing hands isn’t a problem. The question is, how long should kids keep their hands in soap and water? Rains says she instructs kids to sing the Happy Birthday song twice while washing their hands. The CDC concurs. That's about 20 seconds, the ideal length for a hand-washing session.

Germs and Sports

When it comes to participating in sports, kids should be cautioned not to share water bottles, towels, or sports gear like helmets, mitts, or shin guards. Kids should put a towel down on a bench or a piece of exercise equipment before sitting on it; parents should wash sports clothing after each use.

Shannon Titshaw, a soccer coach at an elementary school in Crossville, Ala., buys bottles of water and keeps them in a cooler. Each girl on the team is required to get her own bottle before practice or a game and write her name on it.

Titshaw keeps a first aid kit on hand for minor cuts and scrapes; a trainer is on hand for more serious injuries. 

Parents of older athletes who use health equipment at the school should check with the school to make sure custodial staff does an adequate job of cleaning equipment. “Parents should be really aware that the janitors or custodians really need to clean that equipment well,” Delack says.

Keep Germs at Home

Delack says one of the best illness prevention moves parents can take is to think ahead and come up with a plan to care for sick kids that doesn’t involve dropping them off at school.

“I tell parents please have a plan, because out of 180 school days, your child will be ill at least one of them, and rather than them being in a panic at 6 o’clock in the morning, you should have a plan so that you know what you’re going to do if your child’s sick. It’s hard. We have parents that will lose their job if they take the time off. But when we’re looking at pandemic potential what we’re really saying to parents is, ‘Do not send them in sick, because that’s all it will take to tip us if we start having a few kids coming in ill.’”

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