Teach Your Child How to Stop Germs

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on November 20, 2022

As a parent, you play a big role in keeping your kids healthy. One of the best ways is to teach them how to stop germs from making them and others sick. This is extra important when contagious bugs are going around, like during cold and flu season.

A few simple lessons can help stop germs and keep your child healthy and well at any time of year:

Clean hands can control the spread of germs. Teach kids to wash hands often with soap and running water. Show them how to scrub well for at least 20 seconds. Singing a song can help to track the time.

Make sure they know to wash before they eat, after playing outside, after touching pets, or any other time that germs are likely to spread. When they can’t get to a sink, hand sanitizer is a good substitute.

If your child is coughing or sneezing, give them tissues to cover their mouth and nose. Remind them to wash their hands after they throw used tissues away. When they don’t have a tissue, show them how to sneeze or cough into their elbow instead of their hands.

When germs are really going around or your child is sick, wearing a disposable or cloth face mask is another good way to protect others.

You likely spend a lot of time telling your child to share. But when cold, flu, or other bugs are a worry, it’s best to keep some personal items to themselves. This includes:

  • Toys
  • Hair brushes
  • Pencils
  • Lip balm
  • Food
  • Water bottles

Even with lots of hand washing, your child’s hands can pick up germs. Encourage them to avoid touching their mouth, nose, and eyes, the main routes for bacteria and viruses to get inside the body.

Send your child with their own water bottle instead. If they need to drink from the fountain, show them how to use it without touching their mouth to the spigot.

Especially when you know bugs are going around or someone close to you is sick, teach your child to keep some distance. This will help to stop germs in their tracks.

In addition to your child’s hands, it helps to clean surfaces that they touch a lot, like doorknobs, tables, phones, keyboards, faucets, and sinks. Show them how to do it properly with a sanitizing wipe or disinfectant.

No one wants to miss out. But if your child is coughing, sneezing, has a fever, or just doesn’t feel well, let them know it's best to stay home.

Shots are no fun. But they are one of the best ways to stop some germs, including the flu. Take your kids to get their vaccines and teach them why it’s so important.

Our bodies have an amazing, built-in defense against germs: the immune system.  Kids may not realize it, but everyday things they do to stay healthy can keep this defense system strong. Help them make the connection between eating nutritious food, getting enough sleep, staying active, and a healthy immune system.

Of course, you can't keep your child from ever getting sick, but following these steps will make it less likely. Teach them when they’re young, and you can help your child develop good habits that will last for years to come.

Show Sources


CDC: “Hygiene Etiquette & Practice: Coughing and Sneezing,” “Teaching Children About the Flu,” “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

University Hospitals: “9 Tips for Keeping Kids Germ Free at School.”

Cedars Sinai: “Can You Really Boost Your Immune System?”

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