This December, give the gift of remembering to wash your hands. It may help you not “spread the joy” of a virus to a friend.
December is National Hand Washing Awareness Month and many Frisco ISD teachers and nurses find it is the perfect time to reinforce hygiene lessons with students.
At Borchardt Elementary School, the kindergarten classes have learned about hand washing, but they now also know about the science of germs and bacteria. School nurse Nicole Hall used the educational product known as Glitterbug Potion to show kindergarten students just how dirty a hand can get and how sometimes a hand that has been washed can still be germy.
The potion helps students see germs on their hands using a UVA light. Along with a lesson on proper hand washing, the product is applied to the hands. After the hands are washed, students hold them under a light to discover if areas are still glowing, meaning they have missed a spot and the germs are still there.
It is a chance to show young students that germs are on our skin even if we can’t see them.
“The students loved it. They thought it was coolest thing,” Hall said. “When they were done washing, they came back and we looked at their hands. Sometimes there would still be some germs showing and we would send them back to wash again.”
Hall also helped teach the kindergarten students with child-appropriate songs and cartoons provided by the Henry the Hand Foundation. Henry the Hand is a cartoon superhero that supports preventing the spread of infection with the four principles of hand awareness:
1. Wash your hands when they are dirty and BEFORE eating
2. DO NOT cough into your hands
3. DO NOT sneeze into your hands
4. Above all, DO NOT put your fingers into your eyes, nose or mouth.
When students come to visit the nurse’s station at Carroll Elementary, nurse Monica Padgett asks students to wash their hands “before we do anything.” Cleaning doorknobs and keeping the restroom clean are constant tasks in the nurse’s room, Padgett said.
Teachers often remind students to use hand sanitizers when they come in from outside or if they have come back from a restroom break.
“We are constantly trying to keep the germs at bay,” Padgett said.
Part of elementary instruction includes advising students to avoid putting hands and fingers in the eyes, nose or mouth.
But once students get to middle school, many are in braces and are often in the nurse’s office dealing with pain from newly tightened braces, issues with rubber bands or retainers. They have their hands in their mouths for a good reason.
“I make them wash their hands immediately,” said Sherry Ratcliff, nurse at Pioneer Heritage Middle School. “I keep hand sanitizer by the telephone and ask them to use it before they make calls home. We wash hands anytime a student has even the simplest issue, such as needing a bandage. It is on an individual basis, but there is a lot of hand washing.”
Kathy Tolbert and Ellen Fogle, FISD school health coordinators, know that proper hand washing is the first line of defense against an outbreak of influenza and other common diseases. They encourage parents to work with nurses and teachers to reinforce the importance of washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer.
“With winter weather here, cold and flu season is here too. Students need to remember to wash their hands, sneeze or cough into their elbow and there is still the time to get a flu shot if families have delayed getting everyone treated,” Tolbert said. “It is also important for parents to be aware of their children’s health and to not send children to school if they have a fever.”
Tolbert referred to the District school health manual on hand washing and the prevention of the spread of illness. This is what Frisco ISD recommends:
To Minimize the Spread of Communicable Disease:
- Encourage children and adults to WASH THEIR HANDS FREQUENTLY, especially before handling or preparing foods and after wiping noses, diapering, or using toilets and at times of illness.
- Please have students cover nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing, or cough or sneeze into the upper sleeve, not the hands. Dispose of tissues in waste containers; do not allow students to put tissues on desks, etc. Have students use hand sanitizer often.
- Discourage children and adults from sharing items such as combs, brushes, jackets, hats and bedding.
- Refer to school nurse for assessment if illness/disease is suspected.
- A letter regarding a communicable disease may be sent to a classroom when three or more students are diagnosed with the same disease (with head lice, a letter may be sent if two or more students in a classroom are found to have live lice).
- There may be circumstances with some communicable diseases that a letter may be sent to a classroom or entire school with one case of the disease reported.
Hand washing won’t always be enough to keep a cold or case of flu away, but in this season of giving - FISD nurses agree it is better to wash hands than become someone who “gives away” a cold or sore throat just because of dirty hands.