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Germs at school - teach your kids to avoid colds

As a parent, there are lots of skills you need to teach your child to be happy, healthy and safe. One of the things that will serve them throughout their life is how to practice healthy habits that will help them to avoid getting sick.

While it would be unrealistic to expect to avoid colds completely, there are steps that each of us can take to minimize our chances of infection.

When it comes to avoiding colds, good personal hygiene is the best tool that we have available to us.

The common cold is caused by a virus that is spread as people breathe in the virus that is release via sneezing, coughing, or even breathing. It can also be spread via infected surfaces, where these viruses can survive on surfaces and hands for over 18 hours. Once a person touches an infected surface, they then proceed to rub or touch their eyes, nose and mouth.

When you think about a child’s day at school, it becomes very clear how colds are spread in the classroom and the playground. Sharing toys, holding hands, and sharing a confined space with lots of other bodies help the virus to spread.

So, it’s clear that good personal hygiene is crucial for healthy kids. But how can you teach a child that something is important when they can’t even see it?

Here are a few tips:

Explain the why

Bacteria and viruses are complex to explain to children. As children grow older, they are able to have a better grasp on these ideas and the implications that they have on their lives. Younger children, on the other hand, need an approach that’s simple. They might not be able to understand what a germ is or how infection works, but you can explain that germs make us sick, which means that we can’t play or see our friends.

One great way to explain germs and colds to kids is through educational songs and videos. YouTube is a great place to find free age-appropriate educational videos with age-appropriate, memorable and interactive ways to learn about germs, colds and good health. Peekaboo Kidz and SciShow Kids are both good places to start.

Make it fun

Let’s face it: washing your hands isn’t the most entertaining task. It can help to make the experience a little more exciting for kids.

One way to do this is by using a soap that’s colourful or shaped. Having a ‘novelty’ factor like this can help kids get into the habit of handwashing by giving them something to look forward to. It also helps to add a song — it’s recommended to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, which is roughly how long it takes to sing ‘happy birthday’ twice or sing the ABC song.

Another way to add some fun to the experience is by rewarding good hygiene. Charts or stickers are a great way to provide positive reinforcement for things like remembering to use a tissue, coughing or sneezing into the inside of their elbow, or properly washing their hands.

Do it together

One of the ways to reinforce regular hand washing is to do it as a family. One of the most important times to wash hands is before eating, so make a point to wash up together as a family before every meal. The more normal and routine this becomes at home, the more likely it is that your child will do it when they’re at school or at a friend’s house.

You can also easily do this when you’re out and about by using a small bottle of hand sanitizer and demonstrating how to use it, and how much you need to keep your hands clean.

Remember, sharing isn’t always caring

We’re quick to teach our kids to share. After all, it teaches important lessons like kindness, compromise and fairness. Unfortunately, sharing can also help to spread colds.

Sharing and taking turns with toys is to be expected. However, sharing forks, spoons, straws, knives, food, and cups can easily spread viruses through contact. Explain to your kids that sharing these things can spread germs, and to always remember to use their own eating and drinking utensils.

Build it into your health message

We know that eating a healthy and balanced diet, staying active, getting plenty of sleep and reducing stress levels keeps us healthy and well, and the same goes for our kids.

Most parents teach their children these lessons over time, and they’re also reinforced in school. They’re important not only for living a healthy lifestyle but also because each of these healthy habits will also help to keep the immune system functioning well and fight off infection.

Teaching your child about germs and personal hygiene can easily be worked in with these messages and lessons to help equip your child with the skills they need to live a healthy life.

Talk to the experts

If you’re having difficulty explaining colds and germs to your kids, there’s nothing wrong with asking for some help.

Speak to your child’s teacher to find out what they’re doing at school to teach kids good hygiene so that you can copy and complement these activities and practices at home.

Similarly, your child’s doctor should have plenty of information on hygiene and colds and can help you with age-appropriate ways to educate them.

Lastly, why not speak to your community pharmacist? Our pharmacists are trained in helping to prevent and treat colds in people of all ages and are more than happy to help you and your child.

You may also be interested in the following:

Five ways to keep your workplace healthy this flu season
4 Reasons to get the flu vaccination this year
6 flu myths - busted

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