AS children head back to school this week parents across Northern Ireland will be breathing an exhausted sigh of relief. But they may be back at home before you know it, suffering from one of the many common illnesses picked up in the playground.
The Public Health Agency (PHA) is therefore urging parents to remind their children about the importance of good hygiene.
Schools are a common breeding ground for germs and bugs and most children will have picked up some kind of illness before the end of the first term. Make sure your child is taking the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of picking up or spreading germs to others when you send them off to start the new school term.
Parents and schools can help reduce the spread of viruses by encouraging children to practise good personal hygiene by:
Washing hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after using the toilet; Washing hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before eating break and lunch; Teaching children not to unnecessarily touch their eyes, nose or mouth during the day. One of the most common ways children get colds is by rubbing their nose or eyes after getting cold virus germs on their hands; Making sure your child carries tissues at all times; Covering their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing or use a tissue which should be disposed of quickly and carefully in a bin; Teach children it is good to share, but not drinks, food or lip balm; Using an alcohol-based sanitizing gel or wipe when hand washing is not convenient, such as at events or on field trips.
Parents can also help reduce the spread of infection by thoroughly washing out lunchboxes each day and making children clean out their schoolbags on a regular basis. Use a wet cloth or wipe to remove dripped liquids and food crumbs from schoolbags. It’s also important to keep your child at home if they are sick.
Dr Gerry Waldron, Acting Assistant Director of Public Health (Health Protection), PHA, said: “Schools are often a breeding ground for a range of bugs and germs which can be easily passed from child to child.
“Effective hand washing is one of the most important tools in preventing many illnesses. Clean hands are vital in controlling the spread of infections, as well as other illnesses such as food poisoning and ‘flu.
“Hand washing with soap and water will reduce the risk of picking up these infections and by following these simple steps we can help to avoid illness and keep our children at school.”