Teach your child early to avoid spreading germs
Educating – and immunizing – your children now can help them stay healthy when they return to school. One of the most basic common sense remedies is hand washing, but it’s got to be done right.
“They should sing in their head the happy birthday song. As longs it takes to sing, they should be lathering up,” advises Dr. Shani-Kay Chambers, a pediatrician with Gessler Clinic in Winter Haven. “After it is finished, they should go ahead and rinse off the soap.”
Hand sanitizer should be used as a backup to discourage antibiotic resistant germs, she adds. It’s important to use soap or hand gel on more than the palms. “You have to get enough of it in your hands and get the gel to cover the skin of your fingertips and stay there long enough to kill the germs,” advises Dr. Daniel Haight, Polk County Health Department director.
Diarrhea is “very infectious,” he adds, so hand washing helps avoid leaving a trail of germs. “A child with diarrhea should be home,” he continues. “Staying home is one of the big things to keeping others healthy.”
It’s also important to avoid sharing anything that can spread germs: pencils, spoons and forks as well as brushes and combs. “Don’t share anything at all,” advises Dr. Chambers. “We have a lot of kids who play sports who share water bottles.”
Many of the common diseases are caused by viruses, and the best thing to do for them is let them run their course, she explains. Parents should offer supportive care and limit sugary drinks. In general, children should not return to school until the symptoms are gone, she says, although there are instances when the medication should be completed first.
Immunizations are “safe and effective” and help children escape diseases like the flu, chicken pox, whooping cough, meningitis, diphtheria, and tetanus, observes Dr. Haight. “Don’t wait unit the end of the summer,” he cautions. “Avoid the long lines and crowds. Get your child’s vaccinations early.”
Vaccinating for the flu not only protects the child in school, but other family members who may lose time from work or suffer more serious health issues because of their age. Your child’s doctor can advise you about required immunizations, he adds.
Another precaution is cleaning musical instruments and uniforms, which may be a breeding ground for molds leading to asthma and allergies, Dr. Haight advises. “Kids are notorious for not cleaning their band instruments.”
Here are some specifics about illnesses parents should look out for:
Also known as conjunctivitis, pinkeye is very contagious when caused by viruses or bacteria, says Dr. Kate Cronan, medical editor at Nemours’ KidsHealth.org and a pediatrician at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del. To prevent spreading pinkeye, kids should wash their hands often with warm water and soap; not touch their eyes; and avoid sharing eye drops, makeup, pillowcases, washcloths and towels. If the eye is still “goopy” with discharge, the child should stay home, Dr. Chambers states.
2. Strep Throat
Strep throat spreads through close contact, unwashed hands, and airborne droplets from sneezing or coughing, Dr. Cronan says. To prevent the spread of strep throat: throw away a sick child’s toothbrush, keep eating utensils separate and wash them in hot, soapy water or a dishwasher. The child should not share food, drinks, napkins, or towels. And teach your kids to sneeze or cough into a shirtsleeve, not their hands. Kids should stay out of school for 24 hours, Dr. Chambers advises.
3. Head Lice
Dr. Cronan says head lice affects girls more often than boys, and are common among kids ages 3-12. “Parents can look carefully at their children’s hair for the eggs called nits or the actual lice,” Dr. Haight adds. To help prevent the spread of lice, parents should discourage sharing combs, brushes, and hats.
4. Molluscum Contagiosum
This skin rash is common among kids 1-12 years old. It spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact, but also by touching objects with the virus on them, Dr. Cronan says. Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water and avoid sharing towels, clothing or other personal items.
5. Walking Pneumonia
Walking pneumonia is the leading type of pneumonia in school-age kids and young adults, Dr. Cronan says. It spreads through person-to-person contact or breathing in particles sent into the air by sneezing or coughing. Walking pneumonia usually develops gradually and can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Encourage kids to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently to prevent its spread.
story by CHERYL ROGERS and JEFF SCHNAUFER