6 Healthy Habits to Keep Your Child from Getting Sick at School
Today, I am sharing the best tips to prevent your child from getting sick at school. As a mom, teacher and former microbiologist I am confident that teaching your kids these habits at home will help them to avoid germs when they are at school
How Not to Get Sick at School
One of the quickest ways to complicate your busy mom life is for one of your kiddos to get sick.
Sitting in urgent care, running to the pharmacy and rescheduling work responsibilities is enough to put anyone over the edge. As if you didn’t have enough on your plate already right?
As a first grade teacher, mother of two and former microbiologist – germs are totally my jam!
The sounds of kids coughing, sneezing and puking are practically the soundtrack of my life.
As a mom, I know how scary it is to send your kiddos to school knowing that there are germs everywhere.
Don’t be scared mama!
Children are mini-germ factories.
As a result, many parents think that the best way for their child to avoid getting sick is to avoid being around other children.
In reality, quarantining your child actually prevents them from developing a strong immune system.
Kids need to be exposed to dirt, pet-dander and illnesses in order to strengthen their body’s natural defenses.
There is a lot of current medical research being done in this area to figure out why so many children have asthma, allergies and autoimmune diseases.
Germs can be good
They are finding that being exposed to germs while kids are young actually protects their immune systems from overreacting. The overreaction is what causes the allergic response.
Obviously, any child who goes to daycare, pre-school or elementary school is going to be exposed to germs.
As mentioned above, this is a good thing because it will help boost their immune system.
That being said, it’s no fun to have a sick kiddo.
The good news is that there are simple steps that you can take so that your child can avoid getting sick at school.
You can start teaching your toddler these strategies now, and they will have them down by the time they enter elementary school.
If you already have a child in school – even better!
They will be able to understand why these tips are important because they know that being sick feels awful and they will want to avoid being miserable.
They will also be old enough to be responsible for basic self-care and personal hygiene which will make the process even easier.
How to Avoid Back to School Germs
Of course the number one habit you need to teach your child is hand-washing…but there are so many other things they can do to avoid getting sick.
As a teacher, I see where kids are picking up the germs AND where they are putting them!
I am going to share the who, what, where, when and how to keep kids healthy at school by sharing some insider secrets.
I recommend that you start with the easiest tasks for your child to master based on their age.
Once those are mastered you will want to slowly add on additional habits.
This will make sure that your kids don’t turn into little germophobes.
You don’t want to talk about germs being scary because that could easily turn into an OCD situation with some children.
Instead, keep it light and fun. You are just trying to create habits – not mental disorders 😉
What you need to know about hand sanitizer
Most schools rely on hand sanitizer to replace hand washing. This is not good! Here’s why:
- Hand sanitizer does not work on dirty hands. Most kids have dirty hands, so hand sanitizer is not effective.
- Hand sanitizer includes antibiotics which actually contribute to antibiotic resistance.
- The antibiotics in hand sanitizer actually kills the good bacteria that are on our hands that help keep bad bacteria away.
Talk to your student’s teacher and request that they be allowed to wash their hands instead of using hand sanitizer.
I also put these awesome hand-washing wipes in my kiddo’s lunch boxes with the hope that they at least get their hands clean before they eat.
6 Tips to Avoid Back-to-School Germs
1)Teach Kids How to Wash Their Hands
Washing your hands is the number one way to prevent illness.
The bummer is that kids are normally only told to wash their hands after going to the bathroom.
We definitely want that to continue, but there are other times they should be washing that will help prevent the germs from entering their bodies.
- Before they eat
You would be surprised at how many classrooms do not wash hands before eating (even if the teacher tells you they are). Instead, they rely on hand sanitizer. I have an entire section below about why this is not a good idea…..keep reading!
- After using the bathroom
Teach your child to say their ABC’s twice and use soap. That’s what it takes to get them clean.
- After blowing/picking your nose
They all think that the tissue keeps their hands clean. Every year I hold up a tissue and use a spray bottle to represent a sneeze. When I hold it up to the window they can all see that they water goes right through…just like their germs! They need to wash hands after using a tissue.
- After recess
You wouldn’t believe how dirty their hands get! So dirty, that in the summer their hands sweat and it actually makes mud in the palm of their hand. Yuck-o. Teach them to look at their hands and notice if they are dirty – and then to wash them.
- When leaving school – or when they arrive home
I started this routine when my kiddos were in daycare. When I came to pick them we would always stop and wash hands on our way out of the door. This is because they would usually want to eat a snack in the car or as soon as we got home.
That way everything that happened at daycare…stayed at daycare. Just like Las Vegas.
Kids should be taught to wash their hands with soap and water while singing “Happy Birthday” two times through.
2) Teach Your Kids to Avoid Touching Their:
- Basically, any part of their face 😉
Touching their faces is a part of a developmental stage.
That being said, I see children every day who are no longer toddlers, but sit with their hands in one of these places – dozens of times a day.
When they constantly have their hands in or on their face they are basically giving germs an Uber ride into their bodies.
By reminding them to keep their hands off their face they will prevent the germs from getting easy access to the inside – where they make us sick.
3) Teach Them Not to Share Food
Yep, totally disgusting and it happens all of the time.
I’m not talking about “Here want a chip?”
I’m talking about:
- Kids eating Takis and licking their fingers then handing some to friends …BLACHHH!
- Kiddos with dirty hands are sharing food.
- Older girls are sharing lipgloss in the bathroom.
- BFF’s are finishing each other’s Capri Sun in the cafeteria.
Talk to your kids about the importance of not sharing the following items:
4) Teach them to tie their shoes
So, your kiddo hasn’t learned to tie their shoes. No big deal right?
The teacher will do it right? NO!!!
First of all, teachers have one hundred million things to do. Tying shoes is not one of them.
Also, I have discovered that shoelaces are often wet. Even when it is a completely sunny day outside. So, how are they getting wet?
From the bathroom floor! Disgust-o!
It’s best to keep your child in Velcro shoes until they can tie them on their own.
Dress them appropriately
- Slip on/Velcro Shoes
- Avoid baggy sweatshirts, pants and jackets
5) Teach Them to Cough and Sneeze in Their Elbow
Many kids either cough (and sneeze) into their hand or directly into the air.
When you teach your child to sneeze into their elbow it blocks the germs and keeps them from getting them on their hands and spreading them to everyone else- which makes the entire classroom a healthier place to be.
6. Teach Them to Use Utensils When They Eat
If they use a fork it’s less likely they are going to be ingesting the germs on their hands. It’s best to just wash their hands, but this is a good measure if you want to be extra careful.
Support the teacher
- Donate school approved cleaning wipes
Check with your school site to see which wipes are approved. I love these wipes from Seventh Generation. Make sure your child’s teacher has plenty of them so cleaning can happen frequently.
- Baby wipes
These are great for cleaning hands and other items at school when they can’t be easily washed or wiped down.
- Donate nice quality tissues
The one’s that the school provides are horrible. They are rough on sensitive noses and they don’t keep anything contained. The good quality tissues will keep their noses from getting raw and irritated and they will also help to keep their hands clean.
- Donate Pencils
The more pencils that are available the less frequently they have the share. I have seen pencils in mouths, noses and all sorts of places. Believe me, you want your child’s teacher to have plenty of pencils for each child.
- Volunteer to sanitize toys, tools and electronics
A teacher’s job is never done. There is ALWAYS something else they can be doing. You can help the teacher and help your child avoid getting sick at school by volunteering to keep classroom supplies clean. Depending on their grade level, this could include blocks, legos, calculators, computer keyboards, iPad screens, dolls….the list goes on forever. A lot of plastic toys can easily be cleaned by running through the dishwasher or soaking the in the bathtub. Your child’s teacher will love to have your help! Healthier kids in the classroom means that she is more likely to stay healthy too!
Related Post: 5 Simple Tips to Boost Your Child’s Immune System
There you have it mama! Tons of teacher-mom approved tips to help your child avoid getting sick at school.
We would love to hear from you! What is your favorite tip to keep your kids healthy at school? Please comment below!
This is a lot of really good info thank you
You are welcome. So glad to share the tips that have worked for my family (and classroom).
Thanks for all the good info! I didn’t know that about hand sanitizer.
You are not alone! Most people don’t realize the details about hand sanitizer and that is why it has become some over-used. Plain soap and water is your best bet!
I’m having my first baby in April so already starting to think about these things! Thanks for the good tips
Congratulations! Yes, there is always a lot to think about as a new mom. My best advice is to keep things as simple as possible (that’s why I started this blog) and to reach out to other mom’s for help.
We went through a whole year where my daughter was sick constantly at daycare. I completely agree germs can be good. She is rarely sick now, so it’s definitely boosted her immune system!
Great! Yes, it seems like that happens. It hits them hard and then their immune systems become stronger. As a teacher, I am around sick kids all day long but I rarely get sick so obviously the exposure is a good thing. I just follow the tips outlined in the post for myself 😉
Loving these tips- especially the Velcro shoes!
Right?!?!?! Who knew! Anything that touches a school bathroom floor should not be touched by hands!
As a former teacher myself, these are great tips! I am so bugged that my son’s school does not have the kids wash their hands before lunch. They have recess first then go straight to lunch. There is hand sanitizer on the tables, but they need a good hand washing! Unfortunately I am home with a sick kiddo today who has the stomach bug. Good news is he hasn’t had it in two years, so at least my constant reminders about trying to stay germ free at school have worked fairly well so far!
I know…isn’t it crazy! When I grew up our teachers were always walking us to wash our hands, now it’s just a pump of sanitizer. I wish more parents would mention it because it won’t change until someone says “you have to let kids wash their hands before lunch!”
Thanks Jessica. Yes, hand sanitizer is completely overused and I think many teachers think they are doing the best thing. It’s definitely convenient, but I think it’s doing more harm than good since it really isn’t cleaning their hands anyway.
Great article! My children are teenagers but when they were younger we would have them sing their favourite song when they washed their hands – they still hum tunes now. The sensible tips you mention (cough into elbow) become habits they carry with them into adulthood. Love the velcro shoes tip!
Hi Kelly – Thanks so much! I am glad you think these tips are practical and helpful. It’s interesting that I wrote this post a few years ago and now they are so relevant to our current situation.