Tips for Avoiding Back-to-School Illness | Ask the Nurse on hand washing

Afraid of illness? Wash your hands ALREADY!

Ask the Nurse: Christine Hammerlund
President of Assured Healthcare Staffing and Nurse

He came in at 6 p.m. as he normally does and sat down for dinner. Thursday. Pasta. Jim and I have been married for 40 years. I still like him, which should tell you something. Actually, I like him a lot. “Have you washed your hands?” I asked. He gave me that look. 

“No, but I don't really need to because they're clean. Don't you remember? Accountants never get dirty.” I gave him the look back. “No, they are not clean.” 

“So, he says, “you're being a nurse tonight aren't you?” I was, and he knew better than to fight me. “Yes,” I said. “It's who I am. It's what I do.” So, he got up and headed down the hall to wash his hands.
And if you're mom never gave you the rules about handwashing, here's my personal favorite tip. It takes about 30 seconds of good lathering to kill the germs. It just so happens that's how long it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” just the slow way Marilyn Monroe did it when she serenaded President Kennedy.
Now, here are five things you should know about washing your hands, and, for pity sakes, lather up every time: This is a filthy planet. The germs that can kill you (or at least make you so sick you're not sure you want to live) are everywhere. Everything you touch - people, objects, surfaces -- will pass along the germs. If you wash once a day, you're just asking for trouble.

  • Every year, diarrhea and acute respiratory infections kill more than 3.5 million children under five around this world. These figures could be cut dramatically if handwashing with soap were widely practiced.
  • Diarrhea is responsible for children missing millions of school days every year. A recent study suggests that hand washing with soap at critical times could help reduce school absenteeism by around 42 percent.
  • With proper use, all soaps work about the same at removing germs. Worry about the H1N1 virus, if you wish. But worry more about dirty hands.
  • A child dies ever 3.5 seconds on Earth. Most die from lack of care as simple as they and their parents washing their hands often every day.

Tips for Avoiding Back-to-School Colds and Flu

1. Create a Regular Sleep Routine

The nights before school starts can be exciting as kids eek out that last little bit of summer vacation and make plans for the school year ahead. That makes it all the more important to help them begin working their way back into a normal sleep routine before the big day. Quality, restful sleep is crucial to immune system wellness. Researchers at the University of San Diego say even modest sleep deprivation can reduce the body’s immunity by 30 percent.

After children reach a certain age, it can be difficult to dictate a sleep routine. Instead of trying to force a lights-off policy, try to lead by example. If you get enough sleep for your unique needs, they are likely to do the same.

2. Share the Power of Probiotics

Probiotics, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, are 'friendly' bacteria in our intestines and increasingly recognized for their importance not only in maintaining a healthy digestive system, but for supporting the body's natural defense mechanisms. Whether you choose to use supplements or include probiotic-rich foods (like yogurt) in your family’s diet, you’ll feel better knowing that studies have shown that probiotics can support the body's normal resistance to bacterial and viral infections.

3. Consider Food Choices

Did you know that eating foods high in sugar and fat can suppress the immune system? Think carefully about the foods that will support health and the vitamins and nutrients they contain, like vitamin C. A well balanced diet will help your child maintain a strongimmune system, so stock up the pantry withhealthy foods and be sure to include them in lunch boxes and after school snacks.

4. Teach Proper Hand Washing Technique

Little reminders to "wash your hands!" are a great start, but most kids don't wash their hands as often or as well as they should. Because hand-washing is the first line of defense against the cold, flu, and other contagious illnesses, it's valuable to remind children how and when to do it. Encourage hand-washing before handling food, after using the bathroom, and after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose. Teach children to use warm water and work up a good soapy lather. Scrub for about 20 seconds (that's about two rounds of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat") rubbing between fingers, under nails, and over the backs of hands.

5. Encourage Kids Not To Share Utensils and Cups with Friends

Kids naturally love to share, but it's not a good idea to share eating utensils with friends, especially during cold and flu season. Since viruses and bacteria are easily transmitted through saliva, this is one type of sharing that you should teach your child to avoid.

6. Get tissues for your issues!

Encourage children to cover their mouths with a tissue when they cough or sneeze and to dispose of the tissue themselves. No time to grab a tissue? Encourage younger children to "catch" their cough in their bent inner elbow, not in their hand. Older kids can be taught to act like they're holding a cape across their face like Dracula. Teach your children to wash their hands immediately after coughing or sneezing. Ask the teacher to mention overing noses and mouths in the classroom, too!

Helping kids learn how to avoid bringing home the back-to-school cold is no picnic, but if your child gets sick then chances are you and the rest of your family members will also become ill. Follow these tips to give everyone a better chance of staying safe and healthy this year.

Here's 12 more tips to make sure your school year starts off well:

7. No tissues? Sneeze and cough into your elbow and encourage friends to do the same.

8. Avoid the germy spots, like the water fountain spout.

9. Backpacks carry more than books. Wash them!

10. Exercise!

11. Keep surfaces clean. Encourage a daily desk wipe down.

12. Manage stress. Create a daily homework schedule that leaves room for play!

13. Avoid sharing hand towels. Who knows if the other hands that use them are always clean

14. Give yourself some space.

15. Get fresh air! Take a break to breathe deep.

16. Hydration, hydration, hydration.

17. Do I have to separate you two? If you’re talking to the hands and face, then yes. Avoid touching the mouth and nose.

18. Look to the sky. A bit of sunshine can work wonders.


August National Immunization Awareness Month

Immunization, or vaccination, helps prevent dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases. To stay protected against serious illnesses like the flu, measles, and pneumonia, adults need to get their shots – just like kids do.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention  Immunization Guidelines

Center for Disease Control and Prevention Immunization Guidelines

National Immunization Awareness Month is a great time to promote vaccines and remind family, friends, and coworkers to stay up to date on their shots.

Talk to friends and family members about how vaccines aren’t just for kids. People of all ages can get shots to protect them from serious diseases.

Download your copy of Immunization Recommendations:

0-6 year Immunization Recommendations (English)

0-6 year Immunization Recommendations (Spanish)

7-18 years Immunization Recommendations (English)

7-18 years Immunization Recommendations (Spanish)

19+ years Immunization Recommendations (English)

19+ years Immunization Recommendations (Spanish)