Preventing the Spread of Flu in Schools

January 22, 2009 10:46:37 AM PST
We're in the midst of flu season which usually peaks in February. The colds and flu easily spread through classrooms from student to student and teacher to teacher.

The National PTA, headquartered here in Chicago, reports that a child can touch up to 300 surfaces in 30 minutes making students a top vehicle for spreading viruses, especially influenza or the common flu. In addition, 3 out of 4 teachers say they have missed school an average of 5 days because they caught an illness from a child. Nearly 22 million school days are lost across the country because of colds and flu.

The PTA also reveals these worrying statistics:

  • The average school desk can harbor up to 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.
  • Classrooms can have up to seven times more germs than a doctor's office.
  • At the height of cold and flu season, 76 percent of school nurses see upwards of 16 students in one day and more than half send five or more sick children home each day.
  • 94 percent of school nurses surveyed believe classroom cleaning protocols for teachers to follow would help combat germs at school.

But the PTA says parents can take an active role during flu season to keep their children healthy:

  • Create a Cleaning Crew: Host parent cleaning events before school starts and periodically throughout the year. Have everyone bring a different classroom supply - such as disinfecting wipes, tissues and hand sanitizer - to help keep your school clean year-round.
  • Help Stock Up: More than 56 percent of teachers buy their own cleaning supplies. You can help by donating cleaning supplies, such as disinfecting wipes, to help your teacher stock the classroom and keep it clean.
  • Teach Healthy Habits: Remind kids to share wisely. It's great to share items like books, toys and pencils, but not items like combs, brushes, hats, toothbrushes, tissues, whistles, cups and forks.
  • Encourage Nutrition: Breakfast is vital, so never skip. Pack your child a healthy lunch including fruits and vegetables and provide a healthy after school snack.
  • Build Immunity: Students need to get plenty of sleep and physical activity, drink water, and eat good food to help them stay healthy in the winter and all year.
  • Learn the Elbow Cough: Teach children to cough into their elbow, not hands (where it's more likely germs will spread through touch).
  • Wash Your Hands Frequently Germs are a huge culprit in causing the flu. Make sure children wash hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. That's the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice.

    For more tips and information, visit