Drinking fountains, door handles, cafeteria tables and chairs, and restrooms are ideal environments for germs to live and grow in a school. Nearly 22 million school days are lost annually due to the common cold and 38 million are lost because of influenza.
The top five bacteria hotspots children are exposed to at school include:
- water fountain spigot (2,700,000 bacteria per inch),
- cafeteria tray (33,800 bacteria per inch),
- cold-water faucet (32,000 bacteria per inch),
- cafeteria plate (15,800 bacteria per inch), and
- computer keyboard (3,300 bacteria per inch).
When a lot of children interact in close environments, illnesses can spread quickly,” says Mary Ann Kellar, RN, MA, CHES, CIC, Infection Control Director at Christian Health Care Center. “Fortunately, students, parents and teaching staff can take simple steps to provide a united front against the spread of infection.”
In the United States, 43.5 percent of school districts don’t deliver guidance for infectious disease prevention, and cleanliness is usually measured by appearance. Cold and flu viruses can live on surfaces anywhere from a few seconds to 48 hours. Some bacteria can live on surfaces for months, so keep those statistics in mind next time you think that the kitchen counter looks clean enough.
The first step to keeping your child in the classroom and off the couch is teaching him/her proper hand hygiene. Germs are transmitted by touching a contaminated surface and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth. It’s no surprise to hear that children under the age of 2 put objects in their mouth 81 times an hour and children ages 2 to 5 put items in their mouth 42 times per hour.
“Children should learn to wash their hands with plenty of soap, warm water, and paper towel or hand dryer. They should be able to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ or the ‘ABCs’ twice to remove germs,” Ms. Kellar says.
Teachers and parents can also model good cleaning and hygiene habits to reduce the spread of germs at school; children look to adults as role models and copy their actions. Disinfectant wipes are an affordable tool to use on germ hotspots. Remember that when children go home they will continue to touch anything and everything, only adding to the germ cycle.