Why hand-washing counts

Frequent hand-washing is one of the simplest — and most effective — ways to stay healthy in school.) Remind your child to wash his or her hands before eating and after using the toilet, blowing his or her nose, or playing outside. Suggest soaping up for as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.

Other school health tips

Common sense can go a long way toward staying healthy in school. In addition to frequent hand-washing, encourage your child to follow these tips:

  • Use hand sanitizer. Give your child alcohol-based hand sanitizer to keep in his or her desk or backpack. Remind your child to use the sanitizer before eating snacks or lunch and after using a shared computer, pencil sharpener, water fountain or other community objects. You might also donate disinfecting wipes to the classroom for general use.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Give your child a package of tissues to keep in his or her desk or backpack. Encourage your child to cough or sneeze into a tissue — then put the tissue in the trash, and wash his or her hands or use hand sanitizer. If it isn't possible to reach a tissue in time, remind your child to cough or sneeze into the crook of his or her elbow.
  • Keep your hands away from your eyes and out of your mouth. Remind your child that hands are often covered in germs.
  • Don't share water bottles, food or other personal items. Offer your child this simple rule — if you put the item in your mouth, keep it to yourself.

Also help your child avoid anyone who has a communicable infection. Close contact with a friend who's contagious — such as at play dates or sleepovers — could lead to your child's own illness.

Of course, it's also important for your child to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, and stay current on his or her vaccinations — including a yearly flu vaccine. To prevent spreading illness at home, use the same tips for the entire family.

Oct. 22, 2014 See more In-depth