By: Maureen Hodson, MSN, RN, CIC, Infection Preventionist
As we enter into the new Fall season, parents’ thoughts turn to keeping children healthy during daycare and school days, and avoiding the seasonal viruses and other germs that come with more indoor activities and crowded places.
While healthy eating, plenty of exercise, and a good night’s sleep are very important, one of the best ways to keep the whole family safe is still good, old-fashioned hand washing. The things we touch every day carry germs that can make us sick if we do not clean our hands properly before eating and drinking, and after using the restroom, or touching other people or surfaces. Computers, iPads, iPods, and phones included!
Proper hand hygiene means washing all surfaces of our hands, fingers, thumbs, and wrists with soap and warm water for 15-20 seconds, or using an alcohol-based hand rub over all surfaces until completely dry. When using soap and water, teach your little ones to sing the “Alphabet Song” or a couple rounds of “Happy Birthday” to achieve the right amount of time needed to destroy those germs – and “Jingle Bells” is fun when the snow arrives.
Another way to prevent illness is to keeps hands away from the eyes, nose, and mouth, where bacteria and viruses enter the body. Cleaning cuts and scrapes with soap and water before covering with a bandage will also help to prevent infections from occurring. As the flu (influenza) season approaches, it is important to have everyone aged 6 months and older vaccinated. Many hospitalizations and deaths happen from the flu each year that vaccination can prevent. It’s a good idea to make sure all vaccinations are up to date to avoid other infectious diseases, too.
It is also important to remember that antibiotics are not effective against viruses, like colds and the flu. Inappropriate antibiotic use can cause bacteria to become resistant, resulting in those “superbugs” that are now increasing all around us. Always follow your doctor’s advice carefully when prescribed antibiotic treatment and do not share prescriptions. And remember to cover that cough with a tissue!
Here are some resources that offer fun ways to teach your children about staying healthy and safe. http://www.cdc.gov/family/kids/index.htm
Massachusetts Department of Public Health. (2004). Handwashing brochure. Retrieved from http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/cdc/handwashing/brochure.pdf
What to do about the flu. (2014). Children & infants. Retrieved from http://www.flu.gov/at-risk/children/index.html