Did you know that 22.6% of the United States’ total population is children under the age of 18?
As a parent or guardian of a school-age child, you’re probably very concerned about your child’s safety if deciding to let them attend school amid a coronavirus pandemic. Knowing the best ways to keep your child safe while attending school won’t just keep your kids safe, but will help keep the rest of your family safe.
We’ve created this guide to help parents and guardians with some essential back to school safety tips to keep your family safe and healthy this school year.
1. Hand Washing
Did you know that handwashing can prevent 20% of respiratory infections and up to 30% of illnesses that cause diarrhea?
As the parent of young children, handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs in your household. Even if your family is healthy, practicing proper handwashing techniques will ensure that your entire family stays protected.
Unfortunately, getting your kids to wash their hands isn’t quite so easy as just deciding that they should. Young children will need your guidance on when they should wash their hands (i.e., after they come home from school, daycare, friends’ house, and before eating).
Kids learn what they see, so its’ important that you model good handwashing behavior. Wash your hands regularly, using proper technique.
By far, the best way to get your children to wash their hands is to make it fun! Here are a few tips to take the “wah” out of washing your hands:
- Invite your kids to dance around with you while you wash your hands. Bid the germs “Bye bye!” when you wash them down the sink.
- Sing a song! Either make up a special “Wash My Hands” song or try an old standby like Twinkle Twinkle. Singing the full song before rinsing also makes sure kids wash their hands long enough (at least 20 seconds, according to the FDA) to kill germs.
- Make bubbles! Try using a foaming soap, or add some bubble bath or dish detergent to your child’s liquid soap. Encourage them to lather to build (and pop!) more bubbles.
- Draw a quick cartoon monster grouchy emoji on their hands in a washable marker. Their mission: make the marker disappear by washing their hands!
- Put a dab or spray of glitter on their hands. Kids have to scrub till the glitter is all gone.
2. Hand Sanitizer
If soap and water aren’t available, your child should be using hand sanitizer. Don’t rely on schools, daycares, or classrooms to stock sanitizer – keep a small bottle in your child’s backpack, as well as in the car and at home. Remind them to use this just as often as they would wash their hands at home.
Make sure any hand sanitizer you purchase has is least 60 – 95% alcohol. According to the FDA, adding rubbing alcohol to a non-alcohol based sanitizer is not an acceptable substitute for alcohol-based sanitizers.
The World Health Organization recommends hand sanitizers contain at least 75% Isopropyl alcohol or 80% Ethanol. The CDC recommends that products made with isopropanol should have at least 70% isopropanol.
While there’s no fun way to make bubbles with hand sanitizer, you can try a few kid-friendly tricks like:
- Try calling it “Alien slime,” “Bye Bye Germ Goo,” or another fun name that makes your kid laugh.
- Make a funny sound whenever you squirt sanitizer on their hands.
- Put sanitizer in a fun squirt bottle, or let them decorate the bottle it comes in with a nametag, bright tape, and stickers.
- Put liquid sanitizers in a spray bottle or squirt toy to make using it more fun.
3. Masks for Kids
If your child tends to wiggle around a lot, it may be challenging to keep a mask on them. Kids may feel a little scared seeing themselves in a mask or can feel restricted while wearing one.
The best way you can explain to kids why they need to wear a mask is to use simple words to explain the importance of wearing it, but without scaring them.
Remind kids that superheroes and everyday heroes all wear masks, and so do you. As a parent, you must model proper mask habits yourself.
You shouldn’t try to immediately force your child into wearing a mask if they’re uncomfortable. If they’re getting ready to attend school, give them time and slowly start introducing them to wearing a mask. Children need time to look, watch, and get used to new habits.
Make sure their mask fits comfortably. Adult masks may slip down, and a too-small cover will pinch and be uncomfortable. Experiment with different fabrics or mask materials if your child complains of it being harder to breathe while wearing it. Remember that children who wear glasses may have a difficult time with mask fit.
To make mask-wearing fun, try some just-for-kids mask designs and prints (like Pokemon and Frozen) from Etsy or other retailers. Making or decorating non-medical masks at home can also be a great craft project, and wearing it is a great excuse for your child to show off their handiwork.
Always be sure to give support and answer any questions that your children have about masks. Be mindful the children under the age of 2 years old should not wear a mask.
4. Teach the Proper Sneezing Technique
Another way that you can keep your child’s school safe is to teach them the proper sneezing technique. Ensuring that your child isn’t infecting anyone in their class will help make sure that your child won’t be re-infected later.
Germs spread quickly, especially through sneezing and coughing. Teaching your child the proper seating technique can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting germs.
Teach your child to cover their mouth with a tissue when they sneeze or cough, and then throwing the tissue in the trash. Many tissue brands make pocket packs in kid-friendly designs that appeal to young children, too.
Kids should also be taught to sneeze and cough into their elbow instead of into their hands. But even after a “sleeve sneeze,” a dab of hand sanitizer or hand washing is always a good idea.
5. Be Aware of High Temperatures
Another way that you can keep your child safe is to keep an eye on their temperature. Any temperature over 99.5 degrees is a fever. Kids must be kept home from school if they have a fever.
Sending a sick child to school or daycare doesn’t just put other kids and teachers (and their families) at risk; it also puts your child at risk. A sick child’s system can’t fight off a second illness, and fever is already a sign that your child’s body is trying to fight something off. Don’t risk making it worse by exposing them to more viruses and bacteria.
Fevers are caused by infection or illness. Some of the most common conditions that can cause fever include:
- Ear infections
- Upper respiratory tract infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Whooping cough
If your child has a fever, be sure they stay home from school.
You should visit an urgent care clinic immediately if your child has 102 degrees or higher fever.
6. Playground Injuries
You can’t always be around your child to make sure that they’re staying safe. However, you can teach your child about playground safety to help reduce their likelihood of getting hurt.
Have kids leave things like bikes, scooters, or backpacks away from the equipment they’re playing on to reduce tripping or falling. If your kids bike, skateboard, rollerblade, or ride a scooter to school (a great way to squeeze in a little more physical activity, too!), make sure they always wear a helmet and, in the case of skateboards or roller blades, protective knee and wrist guards as well.
Make sure your kids know never to push, shove, or roughhouse on playground equipment on recess. Teach your kids how to use playground equipment correctly and safely, like going down slides feet first and not standing on swings.
Teach your kids to “look before they leap” and make sure no one is in the way before they jump off equipment, and have them practice proper landing techniques – knees bent and arms out – when jumping off equipment.
For your part, avoid outfitting your child in necklaces, purses, or hoods with drawstrings and toggles when you know they’ll be playing on playground equipment. These items can easily strangle or choke a child if they get caught on equipment.
Playground equipment is a perfect vector for germs and viruses, so make sure your kids wash or sanitize their hands after enjoying playground equipment.
Go Back to School – Safely
Heading back to school in September 2020 may look very different than previous years. Depending on where you live, your child’s school may have different, more strict, or more lax safety regulations than others. Make sure your child understands and follows the rules at his or her school and the rules and safety procedures at home.
Keeping your child equipped with the right personal protective equipment, knowledge of what they can do to prevent the spread of germs, and proper playground safety techniques will go a long way towards ensuring a safe and healthy school year.
Keep your kids home from school at the first sign of illness or infection, and call on CityHealth Urgent Care to help you battle childhood illnesses and accidents.
We know how busy parents are, so we’re pleased to offer Virtual Visits for adults and kids! Simply make an appointment online for the date and time that works best for you, and enjoy a private, one on one consultation with one of our clinicians. We’ll help you address your child’s healthcare concerns from the comfort and convenience of your home, without needing to take time off work or sit in a waiting room.