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Cold and flu season is right around the corner; classrooms are environments that are ripe for spreading germs because of the number of people in such a small space. Most doctors recommend getting a flu shot to ward off the flu, but what can you do to help avoid the common cold?

Cover your cough

Remind your children to cover their cough. It is recommended to cover your cough with the crook of your elbow. That way, germs are not on your hands and are not quite as easily spread. It even better if your kids cough or sneeze into a tissue and then immediately discard that tissue and wash their hands.

Hands off 

This is some great advice that I learned from our school nurse. Entry points for germs are very commonly our eyes, nose and mouth. Our hands are often covered in germs. So try to help your children develop a habit of not touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. This is challenging, even for me!

Wash your hands...a lot

Most kids wash their hands, but usually not for a long enough time. Help your kids wash their hands longer by having them sing the Happy Birthday song twice or the ABCs twice. Make sure to wash all parts of your hands – front, back, in between your fingers, under your nails and even up to your wrist.

Be mindful of shared spaces

Places that are shared are common ways for germs to spread. In the classroom this might include computers, pencil sharpeners or work tables. Remind your children to wash their hands especially after using these areas and always before eating. While washing your hands is best, if you aren’t able to wash your hands, consider using a hand sanitizer.

Don't share

That’s right. Teach your kids not to share things that go in their mouth such as water bottles, lip balm or any other personal items. Our mouths are germy places, and anything that goes in your mouth should not be shared with others.

Healthy habits

Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and exercising will help to keep your immune system in check. A good immune system will help to fight off any wayward germs that your body happens to encounter.

Donate

Teachers don’t want to get sick either, and they spend a good amount of time on cleaning and sanitizing. Consider donating to your child’s classroom. Every teacher I know would be thrilled to receive a donation of hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, and/or Kleenex.

Be considerate 

You can’t keep your child home for every sniffle or cough. However, if your child is running a fever, has any sort of infection (such as an upper respiratory infection), or if his symptoms are just not getting better, it might be time for a sick day. Most schools recommend staying home for 24 hours after your child’s fever has resolved.

Tracy Christman is a psychologist with Milwaukee Public Schools and the mom of two boys.

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