Avoiding Germs at School

Anyone can catch a cold or the flu, but children are thought to be particularly susceptible – catching an average 3-8 colds per year – so if your children are in an educational establishment or you work in a school or nursery environment, take extra care during the peak cold and flu months.

Why are children so susceptible?

When you think that a common cold virus can be sprayed up to a metre away with every sneeze, and given the close proximity of 30 or so children in a classroom, it is no surprise that a cold or flu virus can spread so quickly in schools and nurseries. Children also tend to be contagious for longer before actually showing symptoms of colds and flu so they may unwittingly be passing the germs around without even knowing they have the virus yet.

However children can be encouraged to minimise their risk of catching (and passing on) germs, by:

  • washing their hands properly – particularly after using the bathroom, before meals and especially when they are coughing and sneezing regularly
  • covering their mouth when they cough. Ideally with a tissue that is then thrown away, or by coughing into the crook of the arm so that germs get trapped remain on the sleeve
  • always having a good supply of clean tissues to hand so they never run out and ensure a clean tissue is used each time
  • showing them how to use a tissue properly – it should cover their nose and mouth whenever they cough or sneeze
  • teaching them to always put used tissues in the bin immediately and then wash hands thoroughly afterwards

During the peak cold and flu season, or when there seems to be a lot of children suffering from colds or the flu, you could talk to staff members about whether they could do an assembly on the importance of good hygiene habits.

Handwashing Technique - Tips from the professionals

To ensure hands are washed properly, warm water needs to be used along with soap – which can be antibacterial. The fingers of one hand should be rubbed through the interlinking fingers of the other hand and vice versa and the backs of the hands not forgotten. A good rule of thumb is that the whole process should take about 20 seconds – or as long as it takes to sing the tune 'Happy Birthday to you' twice through.

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