With school just around the corner, that also means the beginning of what some parents deem “the season of sick.” Getting back into that setting with hundreds of other kids means germs spread like wildfire through classrooms and grade levels.
This video is great for explaining to kids what germs are, where they are typically found and how to help prevent sickness. If you really want to keep your kids informed, read this week’s blog on what the “germiest” surfaces in a school are and how to clean them. You might be surprised what you learn!
How many times do you remember your mom telling you to not put your mouth on the water fountain? All that nagging wasn’t for naught! The National Sanitation Foundation, which tests elementary schools for bacterial content, found that more bacteria is found in drinking fountains than in bathrooms.
In their study, 2.7 million bacterial cells were found per square inch of the average school drinking fountain. While the water from the fountain must meet both state and federal standards and is commonly checked by local officials, the pipes and hard-to-see plumbing often harbor the bacteria that can cause disease. There are many damaging pathogens that live in water fountains that cause people to get sick. E-coli, legionella, and coliform are three types of bacteria commonly found in water fountains.
Shockingly, even a dog’s water bowl is safer to drink out of than a water fountain! In a study done by the Toronto Star comparing bacteria count, the water fountain had 4,529 types of bacteria and the dog bowl only had 172 types bacteria. If you do need to use a water fountain, let the water run for a few seconds before drinking. Also, keep your mouth away from all the metal surfaces.
Computers and tablets
As more schools adopt classroom laptops or tablets, it’s no surprise that the number of germs and bacteria on those touch screens is high. In fact, you’re more likely to find germs on a computer than on a toilet seat, and with more than 200 times the number of bacteria on the computer.
A study at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital found that two deadly drug-resistant types of bacteria could survive for up to 24 hours on a keyboard, while another common but less deadly bug could survive for an hour.
Most of the bacteria transmitted to keyboards are those that commonly live on our skin or in our nasal passageways. Once on the keyboard, they can cause infections in open wounds or more severe illnesses, particularly in the immunocompromised. To protect yourself and your kids, make sure everyone in your family knows to wash hands prior to using the computer and to limit eating and drinking there as well. By not eating, you limit the number of times your hands come in contact with your mouth, which will decrease your chance of illness.
The cafeteria table is a variable buffet of bacteria. This is especially disheartening since most stunts dump their lunch right on the table and begin to eat.
Once food particles are left on the table, bacteria are able to multiply even faster. If your child brings reusable containers for their lunch, you could be introducing all the bacteria from the cafeteria into you house when you wash their dishes, too.
Remind you student that, when in the cafeteria, s/he should never put any food directly on the surface of the table, and must and handle all utensils by the end that is not put in the mouth. Finally, always wash hands both before and after eating to minimize the risk of catching something nasty.
By now you have a good understanding of how “germy” a school can be. Now, imagine all of those germs and bacteria coming into your home as they hitch a ride on a backpack! Another compounding factor for this point is that backpacks do not get washed frequently. After the abuse they take (by being thrown on the floor or stuffed with sweaty gym clothes) it’s important to remember to launder them frequently and not allow them to be stored on surfaces like the kitchen table where germs can easily be transmitted. If the backpack can’t be washed, use an antibacterial wipe to clean visible surfaces.
Don’t let illness sideline you this school year. Be cognizant of these high-germ areas and practice good preventative health measures to stay healthy!