Martha Jefferson Healthwise: Classroom Germs

August 28, 2013

Most kids are back in the classroom, or at daycare, but there's more there than just desks, books and toys around them.

Doctor Kathy Phan of Forest Lakes Family Medicine says germs live on surfaces and can cause all sorts of illnesses.

“They'll pick them up in the sand box, common toys in the play area,” says Dr. Phan. “Not all areas are god about wiping down toys but even after one handling of toys they're going to be germs there.”

According to Dr. Phan, these germs can lead to common colds, hand foot and mouth disease, strep throat or stomach illnesses.

But, there are a few things kids can do to stay healthy.

“So to prevent spread of illness or even prevent illness, hand washing is key. We find in certain studies, if you wash your hands at least 5 times a day, it can prevent 80% of the illnesses you would normally encounter.”

In addition to keeping hands clean, Dr. Phan says school-aged children should get between 10 and 11 hours of sleep, eat healthy foods, take vitamins, cough into their elbow instead of a hand and avoid touching their face.

“So part of it is teaching kids not to touch their eyes and nose because germs stick to the moisture. So if they're touching toys, those germs will stay there up to 3 hours.”

Dr. Phan says kids will likely get sick a few times a year, but taking a few easy precautions can limit sick days and keep them in the classroom.

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