DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla., -- Starting a new school year means clothes shopping, parent-teacher conferences and kids coming home with sicknesses. Schools, in particular drinking fountains, door handles, cafeteria tables and chairs, and restrooms are ideal environments for germs to live and grow.
In an infographic illustrated by the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA), on How Dirty is Your Child's School? nearly 22 million school days are lost annually due to the common cold and 38 million are lost because of influenza.
According to the ISSA, the top five bacteria hotspots children are exposed to at school include:
1. Water fountain spigot: 2,700,000 bacteria per inch 2. Cafeteria tray: 33,800 bacteria per inch 3. Cold water faucet: 32,000 bacteria per inch 4. Cafeteria plate: 15,800 bacteria per inch 5. Computer keyboard: 3,300 bacteria per inch
"When you have a lot of kids interacting in close environments, illnesses can spread quickly," said Diane Emo, vice president of marketing for Coverall North America, Inc. "Students, parents and teaching staff can take simple steps to provide a united front against the spread of infection."
The ISSA reported that 43.5 percent of school districts don't deliver guidance for infectious disease prevention and cleanliness is usually measured by appearance. Cold and flu viruses can live on surfaces anywhere from a few seconds to 48 hours. Some bacteria can live on surfaces for months, so keep those statistics in mind next time you think that the kitchen counter looks clean enough.
The first step to keeping your child in the classroom and off the couch is teaching them proper hand hygiene. Germs are transmitted by touching a contaminated surface and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth. It's no surprise to hear that children under the age of two put objects in their mouth 81 times an hour and children ages two to five put items in their mouth 42 times per hour.
"Children should learn to wash their hands with plenty of soap, warm water and paper towel or hand dryer. They should be able to sing 'Happy Birthday' or the 'ABCs' twice to remove germs," added Emo.
Teachers and parents can also model good cleaning and hygiene habits to reduce the spread of germs at school; children look to adults as role models and copy their actions. Disinfectant wipes are an affordable tool to use on germ hot spots. Remember that when children go home they will continue to touch anything and everything, only adding to the germ cycle.
Teachers are also thrown into the mix of catching illnesses in the classroom. Teacher absences costs schools more than $25 billion annually and substitute teachers cost the U.S. $4 billion annually. Teachers can also practice good hygiene habits to protect themselves.