Avoid those icky back-to-school germs

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

germs on hands
Special lighting shows germs normally invisible to the naked eye. The lightest blues are where there are the most germs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average elementary school child gets sick 8 to 12 times each school year. If you’re in middle or high school, you’re likely to get sick around 6 times a year. It’s those pesky back to school germs, I’m telling you! So, what are some techniques you can use to protect yourself from all those bugs?

For one, avoid what Dr. Harley Rotbart from the University of Colorado calls germ “hot spots.” Can you guess what these are? I’ll give you a hint. You raise your hand in class to ask your teacher to go here. It involves water and drains. Sometimes people line up to wait for their turn… did you guess “the bathroom?” Nope! Surprisingly, it’s actually water fountains! That’s right, according to Dr. Rotbart, these drinking stations are packed with more germs than there are on toilet seats! Yuck. A good way to avoid getting that bacteria in your mouth is to let the water run for a second or two before putting your lips near the fountain. Better yet, you can bring your own water bottle to school… just be sure not to share with anyone!

While you can get away from the germs at the water fountain, it’s almost impossible to avoid the ones students spew into the air when they cough and sneeze. What do you do then? Well, you can make sure your body is in tip-top shape! Eating a healthy vitamin C-packed diet, getting lots of sleep, and exercising at least 40 minutes a day are awesome ways to boost your immune system (your body’s natural defenses against disease). The stronger it is, the better it can fight any icky germs that get into your body.

Last but not least, wash your hands correctly. “It is stunning how many times kids touch their faces and then touch other kids,” Rotbart said. “This is a very touchy-feely [environment], and that’s how we share germs!” What’s the best way to wash your hands? According to Judy Harrison, a food and nutrition professor at the University of Georgia, you should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. That’s roughly two rounds of the “happy birthday” song (it doesn’t count if you sing as fast as you can)! Be sure to get in between each finger and underneath each nail, then dry off with hot air and a clean paper towel.

If you’re already doing all these things, you can bet your lunch money you won’t get sick too often!