“Schools are full of hot zones for germs,” says Rosemary Casey, MD, pediatrician at Lankenau Medical Center. “Students are touching germy surfaces during the day, and their fingers end up near their eyes, in their mouth, and on their food. Many kids just don’t realize where those germs are and how easily they transfer.”
Although germs can be found anywhere, we’ve got a list of the germiest spots, and how to protect your children from a back-to-school cold.
In the Computer Lab
Computers, tablets, and other electronic devices are a staple in schools. Unfortunately, they’re also a magnet for germs. At most schools teachers and staff members will ensure that each device is wiped down in between uses, but that’s not always the case. Encourage your child to wash their hands before and after touching a keyboard, mouse, or tablet. If they are available, using a disinfecting wipe to clean the surface is also effective.
In the Lunchroom
The cafeteria repeatedly ranks as one of the most germ-heavy areas of a school. Although many schools have made improvements to reduce the spread of germs, including wiping down lunch trays and tables and ensuring students use hand sanitizer before and after meals, there are still ways to prevent your child from picking up and extra germs during lunch.
- Talk to your son or daughter about not sharing food or drinks, and not placing their food directly on to the table.
- Remind your child to cover their mouth when they sneeze or cough. This is true for everywhere in a school, but especially in the cafeteria.
- Clean your child’s lunchbox every night with a warm, wet paper towel and soap. Food or liquid that ends up in the corners or bottoms of lunchboxes can be easy to miss.
At the Water Fountain
Most bathroom breaks and trips through the hallway include a stop at the water fountain. These spigots are a breeding ground for mold, bacteria, and other germs. Teach your son or daughter not to put their mouths directly on the spigot. If it is allowed, avoid the water fountain altogether and send your child to school with a personal water bottle.
Even with all the right precautions in place, you can’t completely protect your student from germs. Don’t worry, says Dr. Casey.
“We try and avoid germs as much as possible, but a little exposure to them is a good thing. It helps our bodies build immunity,” she explains.
- See related stories: Back-to-School Backpack Guide