Colds spread through schools way too quickly for comfort. Every year, nurses and teachers alike emphasize the importance of handwashing and sanitizing. How can you keep your kids healthy while preserving their microbiomes?
There’s a sense of a fresh start as you say goodbye to summer and prepare for fall. You don’t have to be in school, or even have kids in school, to naturally fall into that back-to-school rhythm of re-evaluating schedules, habits, wardrobes, even what you eat. It’s different than New Years and making resolutions. This time of year is about rolling with the changes.
We all have our rituals. We do things a certain way whether for convenience or necessity, and we tend to stick with it. In the spirit of helping you go with the flow and keep life easy while doing it, we’ve come up with Too Much Too Clean: The New Rules for Back to School, where we've come up with the top 4 things parents have to tackle during back to school. The thing is, these tips aren’t just for helping out your kids, they’re meant for you, too.
Each week for the month of September we’ll post helpful tips and info to keep ya forward moving, connected, and feeling good!
This week’s tip: the best hack for hand hygiene.
Walk through the halls of your local elementary school, and you’re almost certain to stroll past some hand sanitizer stations hung on the walls. Students are instructed to sanitize their hands after using the restroom, sneezing, coughing, or even going outside.
At Mother Dirt, we often discuss how being too sterile is bad for our skin health. How can we find a middle ground between being too clean and keeping kids from catching every cold in the class?
Wipe Away the Colds
Most people think that the key to removing germs from our skin is to use strong soaps or antibacterials. Surprise, surprise - it’s actually the physical act of scrubbing that removes most of the dirt and pathogenic bacteria from our skin! That’s why all of the signs explaining best practices for hand washing emphasize rubbing your hands under running water.
Days are busy, and it isn’t always practical to get up in the middle of class to wash up. Try this easy, biome-friendly solution:
Pack some non-antibacterial wet wipes in your children’s backpacks, for quick on-the-go swipes that will clean while keeping the skin microbiome intact. When sneezes, spills, and messes happen during class time, a quick wipe down that protects the good bacteria while cleaning well is the way to go. (Want to form good habits early? Keep the wipes on hand at home, too, and encourage kids to use them to clean up!) The physical act of wiping down dirty hands will remove dirt, grime, and most of the pathogenic bacteria - without causing chemical harm!
Stay Away from the Sanitizer
Research has shown that the sanitization habit isn’t really helping kids stay healthy and stay in school, anyway. The study trained a group of students in hand hygiene protocols before splitting the group in two and asking one group to add hand sanitizer into their routine. Absentee rates in both groups were the same!
Hand washing and hand sanitizing seem to work fairly similarly at keeping kids in school - but sanitizing also takes a toll on children’s growing microbiomes. Being too clean causes some serious damage to the microbiome - which is in important stages of development during childhood.
When to Wash
There are still situations where hand washing is really the way to go. Just be sure to use non-antibacterial soap when you need to wash...
- After using the restroom
- After sneezing
- Before a meal
Health is also about so many more factors than just washing your hands. Keep kids (and adults) healthy by making good lifestyle choices and placing an importance on health overall!
Starting Good Habits
September is a month of new beginnings, and an excellent opportunity to develop some good habits. The same tips that apply to kids going back to school, are great for adults as well. Keep moistened hand wipes at your desk, in your car, in your bag for readily available biome-friendly clean up. Good health can come without being overly clean and sterile.
And at the end of the day, remember that families build microbiomes together. Spending time together, in the home and outdoors, will help you and your family get a big boost of good bacteria.
Don’t forget to Mist as a family ;)