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Washing Away Germs

School supplies have been bought, and your children are settling in for another school year. It is the perfect time to remind children—and adults—that good hygiene can prevent illness.

It all starts with a little thing called a germ, a microorganism too small to be seen by the human eye. There are good germs and bad germs. Good germs help our bodies maintain balance. Bad germs make us sick by producing toxins and causing symptoms such as fever, rash, and vomiting.

Most germs that make us sick are spread through the air by sneezing and coughing. That’s why it is important to cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough to protect others from your germs. Germs can also be spread through body fluids—sweat, saliva, and blood. We can pick up germs from shaking hands, touching doorknobs, or drinking after someone.

Of course, you can’t prevent every common cold or bout of the flu, but you can help protect yourself and your children from germs this school year.

Tips for preventing germs
• Set a good hygiene example. If your children see you practice good hygiene, they are more likely to do it themselves. Start at a young age and reinforce good habits throughout their childhood.

• The number-one way to keep germs at bay: wash your hands regularly throughout the day, not just when they look dirty. (Remember, you can’t see germs.) How do you properly wash your hands? Use soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds. Be sure to get under your nails and don’t forget your wrists. Think of a doctor scrubbing in for surgery.

• Don’t make a habit of putting your fingers in your mouth, biting your nails, or rubbing your eyes and nose.

• Wash your hands before preparing food or eating, after handling raw meat, after using the bathroom, after touching pets, and after playing outside. If you or your child have been playing in the dirt, be sure to clean under your nails.

• For those times when you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, carry a bottle of antiseptic hand gel with you in your purse, car, or backpack.

• Clean phones, doorknobs, toys, and other commonly used objects regularly.

• Always cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your hands when you sneeze or cough. Wash your hands afterward and throw used tissues in the trash immediately.

• Cook meat thoroughly according to package directions, and wash fruits and vegetables well because bacteria found in these foods can make you sick as well. Be sure to properly clean food preparation surfaces, such as cutting boards and countertops.

• Stay home if you’re sick. If your child is running a fever, has diarrhea, or other symptoms, don’t send him or her to school. It’s better to take a day off and get well than to spread your germs.

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