Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: Try to guess where the germiest spot in your kid's school is. Ready? OK: If you said "the bathroom sink," you're wrong. The biggest hot spot for germs in a school building is -- brace yourself -- the cafeteria table. That's right: The place where your kid munches his milk and Tater Tots is a cesspool of germs, according to a recent study by the University of Arizona and Dr. Charles Gerba (a.k.a. "Dr. Germ").
The other big offenders? The computer mouse, bathroom paper towel dispenser handles, water fountains, bathroom sink faucets, library tables and computer keyboards. Among kindergarteners, though, the bathroom sink was the germiest place of all, followed by their desks, meaning that little ones still have some basic hygiene rules to learn. But the germiest group was not kindergarteners, but middle school kids, who had the highest rates of grems, according to the study, which was funded by Clorox.
Dr. Aliza Lifshitz, internist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and editor of VidaySalud.com, said in a statement, "Some bacteria are capable of causing infections and tend to collect on frequently touched surfaces -- particularly in areas where there is a lot of hand-to-mouth contact, like the cafeteria table. To help your children minimize the spread of germs, encourage them to wash their hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand rub, especially when sharing school supplies or taking turns using the computer."
What does all this mean? It means that schools are germy places, and it's no wonder kids come home with colds and flus (and pass them on to mom and dad) all winter long. But we can't keep our kids in a germ-free bubble. They have to go to school, and they're going to come in contact with bacteria and viruses that make us sick. But there are things we parents can do to minimize how many germs cross our doorsteps.
Don't touch. Teach your kids good habits, like washing their hands frequently, coughing into their elbows, closing the toilet lid before they flush and using paper towels to press flush levers, turn faucets on and off and open and close the bathroom door.
Donate cleaning supplies. Frequently used items and surfaces -- like keyboards, door knobs and desktops -- need to be cleaned several times a day to keep germs at bay. However, we all know school are strapped for funds these days, so if you want to help out, consider donating some much-needed cleaning supplies (such as disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer) to your kid's school.
Practice what you preach. Make your home a model of clean behavior. Don't wear outdoor shoes inside stay home when you're sick; wash hands when you come home; frequently clean heavily trafficked surfaces like computer keyboards, remote controls, countertops and bathrooms. Have your kids help out!