“Back-to-school plague” is 100 percent a thing. It affects everyone from preschoolers to college students, and it happens every year. After being out all summer, students come back to school with a whole new suite of germs — within the first few weeks of a new school year, it seems like nearly everyone is sneezing, coughing, and battling sore throats.
Turns out elementary-aged children contract, on average, six to eight colds each year, and they’re more likely to get sick during fall and winter. Every door handle, pencil sharpener, desk, and faucet touched by a sick student becomes a breeding ground for germs… and then hundreds more students touch the same objects.
Wondering how you can battle back-to-school plague this year? Try these five bacteria-busting tips.
1. Avoid or sanitize the danger zones.
Water fountains, bathroom sinks, door handles… These are some of the germiest locations in schools. While you can’t always avoid these germy locations, you can make small efforts to reduce contact with germs. Try these tips:
- Use a clean paper towel to open the bathroom door when you’re done.
- Bring a large reusable water bottle so you don’t have to fill up at the school fountains.
- Keep your bookbag off of the floor if possible — hang it on the back of your desk or on a hook if provided. Hang it up when you get home, too.
2. Always — repeat, always — wash your hands.
Everyone grows up hearing about the importance of hand-washing, but not everyone takes it seriously. Considering the fact that hand-washing can prevent 30 percent of diarrhea-related illnesses and 20 percent of respiratory infections (such as colds) each year, everyone should take it seriously.
Good hand-washing tactics include:
- Washing with clean, running water (warm or cold)
- Washing with soap
- Washing for at least 20 seconds
- Thoroughly rinsing off the soap
- Air-drying or drying with a clean towel
Always wash your hands before and after eating; after using the restroom; after touching garbage or dirty surfaces; and after touching animals.
3. Carry portable sanitizers.
In the case that you can’t wash your hands, save yourself from germs by using a sanitizing spray. Everyone can benefit from carrying one of these two items (or both!) in their backpack at school. Use sanitizer to clean your hands and to disinfect germy surfaces like school chairs, desks, and door handles.
4. Bring a packed lunch.
Surprise — that plastic cafeteria tray your lunch is on? It’s the third-germiest location in schools. That might seem unlikely (don’t they wash those things?!), but keep in mind that hundreds of students use those trays each week, or even every day, depending on how large your school is.
With a packed lunch, not only do you get to eat what you want (there’s a good chance it might be healthier, too), but you avoid the bacteria-ridden trays.
5. Be prepared.
Preventative care is the best care. Make sure you and/or your child are up-to-date on all vaccines required by the school, and get your annual flu shot.
You can also prepare by making sure your immune system is in tip-top shape by using natural preventative remedies, like elderberry syrup, and by following a generally healthy diet and staying hydrated. Sweating also helps flush your system of toxins, so be sure to get your exercise in.
And of course, just stay home if you’re really sick (and encourage others to do the same).