Beating the Back-to-School Germs - Establishing new routines to stay healthy

September 7, 2016

Parents know the return to school usually brings coughs, colds, sniffles and other illnesses. But have you stopped to think about how these nasty germs are getting into you, your kids and your home?


Kids are commonly exposed to a big list of contagious germs: colds, respiratory viruses, strep throat, influenza, hand, foot, and mouth disease, and much more. Consider how much work you and your family miss due to illness, either to take care of a sick child or getting sick yourself, and it is easy to see the value in taking some extra time to set up preventative routines!

Island Health Medical Health Officer Dr. Dee Hoyano is a mom of school aged kids, and her best stay healthy advice to her kids is around hand washing. “When you think about how much equipment is shared at school, it is no wonder that illness spreads quickly,” she says. “Kids should get in the habit of washing or disinfecting their hands not just around mealtimes and using the bathroom, but also at other transitions during the day.”

Key hand washing times should include:
    • After gym class or playing outdoors
    • First thing after coming home from school/work/play outside
    • Before and after eating
    • After using the bathroom

Recent studies have shown high levels of potentially harmful bacteria on items like reusable water bottles and lunch bags, backpacks, smartphones and other handheld technology.  There are germs lurking in many of the items that come home every day, and we don’t often think to give them a wash.

“Lunchbags and water bottles should be cleaned regularly,” says Hoyano. “It is a good idea to have a couple of them so you can switch them out to allow for a good cleaning.”

Backpacks are another culprit. Just think of where that backpack has been during the day – on the floor at school, stuffed in a rarely cleaned locker, or on the dirty bus (or bathroom) floor.  Gross. Backpacks also carry food, wet or sweaty gym clothes, and lots of other things besides homework.  Hoyano says you should help your kids establish a new routine to deal with everything in their backpack as soon as they get home. “Lunch containers can go right in the dishwasher or get washed in the sink, dirty gym clothes in the laundry, home work out, then hang the backpack where it is supposed to go, and wash hands before doing anything else.”

One more to add to the ick factor – a study in the UK found nearly 1/5th of cell phones tested positive for E.Coli, a bacteria found in fecal matter. Not surprising, considering the majority of respondents to a survey admitted they texted or talked on the phone while in the bathroom. Cell phones and other devices are prime germ breeding grounds because they are warm, have lots of nooks and crannies, and don’t get cleaned often.  The best way to beat the bugs is to use antibacterial wipes to clean all handheld electronic devices every day!

Learn more about keeping kids healthy.

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Valerie Wilson
Director, Communications and Engagement

South Island media inquiries:
Kellie Hudson
Media Relations Manager