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School nurses: Don't let teens back away from handwashing

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Child washing hands

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. How to prevent illness?
2. How long should you wash your hands?
3. Should sick children attend school?

Even if you’re ensuring your children exercise, sleep enough and eat well, those efforts may be wasted if they’re not washing their hands - especially in the time of COVID.


That’s what more than 270 U.S. school nurses said in a survey by KidsHealth in the Classroom, which emphasizes handwashing as the best way to prevent children from getting sick, whether from a common cold or pandemic virus.

The nurses say parents should teach — and then remind — their children how and when to wash their hands and to not touch their eyes, nose and mouth. They should also cough and sneeze into their elbows to minimize the spread of germs.

All of this becomes even more vital during widespread virus outbreaks, such as the historic COVID-19 pandemic.


Lathering hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds — or humming the "Happy Birthday" song twice — is the proper way to kill germs.

The nurses recommend parents help their children learn good hygiene, eat nutritious food, get enough sleep and stay up to date with immunizations, including flu shots.


Another key in decreasing illness in schools is for parents to keep their children home when they’re sick, the nurses say. For example, parents shouldn’t feel pressured to send their children to school sick, particularly with a fever, because they have a test.

Most schools require students stay home until at least 24 hours after a fever has broken naturally, which means without medicine.


KidsHealth in the Classroom

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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