Nearly 60 million school days are lost each year due to colds or the influenza virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Infections spread in schools so easily because students are in close contact and share supplies and equipment.
School nurses have some health and safety tips for teachers this year, including:
- Promoting hand washing.
Washing your hands well and often will protect students from getting infected by — and spreading — bacteria and viruses. Educate the students and take the time to do the necessary infection controls, such as washing hands and coughing into elbows, and reinforcing those lessons on a daily basis so that the repetitive behavior will become automatic and will greatly reduce the infection rates in school. Important times to wash hands at school are after using the bathroom, before eating lunch or snacks, after outdoor activities and when hands get dirty from classroom activities.
- Making sure classroom materials and surfaces are disinfected.
A lot of learning in schools is hands-on with shared resources. Maintain a clean classroom by washing desktops and commonly shared classroom tools.
- Encouraging sick students (and school staff) to stay home.
Students and staff who have a fever, feel nauseated, are vomiting or have diarrhea should stay home. Students and staff who lose their appetite, are lethargic or complain of pain should also take a sick day. Teachers should especially watch out for students who are not acting like themselves, or who don’t look right, and send them to the school nurse.
- Teaching and modeling hygienic coughing, sneezing, and nose-blowing.
Respiratory infections can spread from student to student in airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes. Teachers can model how to cough or sneeze into a tissue or an elbow — not into hands. In addition to coughing and sneezing, nose-blowing is a culprit for spreading germs, so teachers should demonstrate how to blow your nose and throw the tissue out in trash immediately.
- Making infection prevention part of the school-day routine.
Teachers need to designate time in the day for hand washing. If a kid has a cold, keep that child’s desk area clean and have them wash their hands more than usual.
Additionally, the CDC says educators can help prevent flu infections by encouraging parents to get flu shots for their kids and teens. Before flu season starts in October, schools can remind parents through school newsletters and other communications.