School is back in session! Learning to connect with our youth about infection prevention is essential to preserving their life and preventing unnecessary disruption to their learning environment. We often promote infection prevention and control in adults, however, the habits to promote good hygiene and the prevention of illness begin in childhood.
Infection prevention and control (IPC) are actions that prevent or stop the spread of infections, typically used in a healthcare setting. Infection prevention should be a proactive, interactive, daily conversation with kids to keep their attention, so they can apply it on their own, to live healthier happier lives.
Nobody likes to be sick! – Making these hygienic behaviors normal, early on, will sustain them in the long term. These tips can get you started to talk about hygiene and personal care with your favorite kid.
Let’s break the conversation into 3 key steps: “why”, “what” and ‘how” of infection prevention.
“Why” is infection prevention important?
Knowing how to recognize the risks of infections in our routine is important to prevent infections.
Say –We are social butterflies, sports, cheerleading, drama team, choir, and more. Infections happens as people live, play, work, or worship.
“What” is infection prevention?
COVID-19, Flu, Bacterial Meningitis, E-coli, and TB are all infectious diseases, germs, and viruses that can be serious and deadly. These germs can be spread from sneezing, coughing, talking, singing, and touching objects that an infectious person leaves behind. Germs can live on surfaces for hours, and the most common entry points are through our eyes, mouth, nose, open cuts, broken skin, and hands.
Explain – where germs can live in the environments. Examples are:
- Doorknobs, bathrooms, countertops, stairwells, faucets, appliances
- Cellphones, tablets, laptops, remote controls especially gaming joysticks
- Gym equipment and school supplies shared at school or visiting a friend’s home
- Toothbrush holders, pet toys
- Dirty linen, and kitchen towels all can potentially spread germs that can cause infection
- Blowing out candles on cakes – Respiratory droplets from blowing can spread and land just like sneezing
“How” do we prevent infection?
Demonstrate – the universal precautions.
- Cover your cough
- Proper hand washing and use of hand sanitizer
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
- Use of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, or eyewear
- Stay home if sick
Top 10 Tips from an Infection Prevention and Control Nurse Educator to Families:
- Show kids how and when to use hand sanitizer – tell them it helps kills germs
- Provide kids with above 60% alcohol FDA-approved hand sanitizers, and make sure it is not expired.
- Model proper hand washing techniques – ask them to show you how they will wash their hands so you can provide immediate feedback.
- Ask them to say their ABCs or sing the “Happy Birthday” song while washing hands. Let them know that hand washing is the most effective way to get rid of germs on their hands.
- Teach them” time out” for hand hygiene. Encourage them to stay focused when washing their hands to avoid touching germy objects.
- Remind them often while you all are together including “their space” with their friends.
- Know your children’s friends, companions, their parents including relatives – to be alert and mindful if they get sick and continue to be sick to limit their exposure.
- Create a promise to mask reward incentives especially if someone around them is sick. (Hint) Make it an arts & craft day to decorate their mask while educating why, when, and how to wear a mask.
- Lastly, Reinforce and Reward positive actions. If you see your child doing hand hygiene or any other infection protection measures – such as wearing masks, wiping down counters, tech gadgets with disinfectant wipes or spray – without your reminders, provide immediate feedback: tell them how proud you are of them and to tell them to keep up the good work.
- Reward good, safe, infection prevention behavior. (Hint) Use a calendar and reward openly so the family can see or use the jar and marble technique to see who can fill up their jar the fastest. Giving each child a marble every time they apply infection protection measures.
Let us go on to help them become future infection preventionists! Most importantly, help them to have healthy birthdays and memorable shared moments. These tips will help them to stay alert and thrive because nobody likes to be sick.
To learn more about Infection Prevention and Control visit the Houston Health Department’s COVID-19 Community Health Education Resource Page to get started: https://www.houstonhealth.org/services/disease-prevention/covid-19/communication-educational-resources