9 Tips to Keep Your Kids Germ-Free at School

Some things spread like wildfire in a school – the latest lingo, the latest trends and, unfortunately, the latest germs.

Schools keep kids – and their germs – in close quarters, creating an environment where students can infect one another. School-age kids miss nearly 22 million school days each year due to colds alone, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

You can't protect your kids from everything, but you can take steps to prevent them from getting illnesses and infections such as the cold and flu at school. Share these tips with your kids to keep them as healthy as possible:

Wash your hands

“The best way to prevent infections is good hand-washing,” says pediatrician Frank Esper, MD. Warm, soapy water is best. Teach younger kids to scrub until they finish singing the entire alphabet song, and teach older kids to count to 20 before rinsing.

Don’t share

This may seem antithetical to one of life’s golden rules, but it’s important to teach kids not to share personal items, such as water bottles, earbuds, hats, brushes and lip balms.

Cover sneezes and coughs 

Sneeze and cough into the crook of your elbow or a tissue – not your hands, Dr. Esper says. And be sure to wash your hands afterward.

Keep your hands off your face

Younger kids, especially, display some questionable habits when it comes to touching their faces. Teach them to keep their fingers out of their mouths, noses and ears.

Skip the water fountain

Pack water bottles for your kids if their schools allow it. If not, teach them to use the water fountain without putting their mouths on the spigot.

Eat your veggies... and your fruit, too

A nutritious diet can give young immune systems a healthy boost.

Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep keeps kids’ immune systems healthy and strong. Children ages 10 to 17 need 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep; children ages 5 to 10 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep; and children age 3 to 5 need 11 to 13 hours of sleep, the CDC says.

Get the flu shot

The single best way to protect your kids from influenza is getting this year's flu vaccine. Be sure your children get their annual flu shot.

Stay home when illness strikes

Sick kids should not go to school. Their weakened immune systems may make them vulnerable to even more germs – and they risk infecting their classmates. Dr. Esper says it is especially important to keep kids home when they have a fever: “When you have a fever, you have the highest number of germs in the body and so are more likely to infect others.”

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