It’s August, the dog days of summer, and millions of American kids coast to coast are coming down with bad cases of BTSB: Back To School Germs. Unfortunately, America’s students aren’t the only ones headed back to class.
Alas, germ class is back in session.
When America’s students return to school this month, they will unsuspectedly be joined by invisible classmates majoring in the transmission of illness. Germs swarm schools like bees swarm to honey, and target the youngest and most inexperienced students at repelling sickly pathogens and bacteria.
Germs’ annual school report card, as Consumer Education notes, is downright scary.
- Nearly 22 million school days will be lost this year to the common cold alone. Throw in the flu and the number of lost school days jumps to well over one hundred million.
- Germs that cause cold and flu can survive on common classroom surfaces for up to 72 hours.
- Children can touch and retouch over 300 surfaces in just 30 minutes.
- Kids are two to three times more likely than adults to get the flu.
- School-aged children can get as many as 12 colds per year.
With numbers this intimidating, it is natural to wonder if America’s teachers, students and administrators have any chance at surviving a 180-day school year without succumbing to a nasty cold or influenza. Trying to count the number of harmful germs and bacteria present every day in the average American school is like trying to count the stars in the sky on a clear night.
But just where is Germs Central in America’s schools? Here is the U.S. Centers for Disease Controls’ Germiest Surfaces in the country’s schools:
- The Classroom Water Fountain Spigot: 2,700,000 germs per square inch
- The Lunchroom Water Fountain Spigot: 62,000 germs per square inch
- Plastic Reusable Cafeteria Trays: 33,800 germs per square inch
- Cold Water Faucet Handles: 32,000 germs per square inch
- Hot Water Faucet Handles: 18,000 germs per square inch
- Cafeteria Plates: 15,800 germs per square inch
- Classroom Keyboards: 3,200 germs per square inch
- Toilet Seats: 3,200 germs per square inch
- Students Hands: 1,200 germs per square inch
- Animal Cage: 1,000 germs per square inch
“Avoiding germs at schools isn’t as simple as just washing your hands in the bathroom or sneezing into your sleeve,” Charles Gerba, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and environmental services at the University of Arizona, told The (Arizona) Journal-News. “Germs are on everything kids touch in the classroom, as well around the hallways, cafeteria and playground.”
Clean Hands Save Class Days
Still, every student’s personal defense against the sickly germs and bacterias plaguing America’s schools starts with regular and thorough hand washing. Proper hand washing includes scrubbing with soap for 20 seconds before rinsing and drying with a clean towel. As Medline.com notes, “disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers also work well.”
For parents, teachers and caregivers of young children who have trouble comprehending the existence of germs and the sickly danger they cause, try describing germs and bacteria in easy-to-understand terms.
- Describe germs as tiny bugs that live everywhere.
- Some germs are good, but others can make you sick.
- When a bug makes you sick, he or she will miss out on having fun with friends
- Reassure kids that there are easy things they can do to prevent sickness, like washing their hands carefully and frequently.
The Best Sickness Defense Plan
For kids, health professionals recommend an eight-step survival plan as the best way to kids healthy during the school year, especially during the dog days of cold and flu season.
- Sleep: 9-11 Hours Per Night
- Good Nutrition
- Proper Hand Washing
- Sanitize Hands At School
- Avoid School Germ Hot Spots\
- Do Not Share Food or Lunch Gear
- Wash Lunchboxes and Backpacks
- Make Sure Kids Play Outside
Unfortunately, there is no magic formula and no do-it-all vaccine that can safeguard America’s kids from the galaxy of harmful germs and bacteria they will encounter this school year. But strong germ reparation, awareness and hand hygiene practices can keep kids healthy, learning, in class and passing one of the most challenging tests they will face this year.