NEWBERRY — With the ringing of the school bell comes a fresh batch of germs that Tricia Ulch, director of nursing for the Newberry County School District, said everyone should watch out for — students, teachers and staff especially.
“Eyes, noses and mouths are the biggest spreaders of germs,” Ulch warns.
Ulch said all faculty and staff follow guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep students as healthy as they can during the school year.
Simple habits such as avoiding close contact, staying home when sick, and covering your mouth and nose are key in preventing the spread of germs, she said.
Ulch said the schools send brochures home with students each year that provide guidelines for when parents shouldn’t send their children to school.
“It’s important to follow that,” Ulch said of guidelines. “You expose them to other students. Following the criteria keeps everyone healthy.”
A collective effort of hand washing and covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing is necessary to remain healthy.
“If you do happen to cough or sneeze in your hand, wipe your hands right away, even if blowing your nose in a tissue,” Ulch said.
According to the CDC, hand washing is like a “do-it-yourself” vaccine, using the five simple steps of wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry to reduce the spread of germs and illness.
“It’s going to be important to wash your hands and not just washing hands but the correct way to wash hands,” Ulch said.
The correct way to wash your hands, Ulch said, is for 20 seconds. Whether you sing the happy birthday song to pass the time or use some other phrase, song or saying, Ulch said the 20-second duration is imperative to preventing the spread of germs.
So when should you wash your hands? The CDC lists several different instances when washing hands is necessary:
• Before, during and after preparing food, as well as before eating food
• Before and after caring for someone who is sick
• Before and after treating a cut or wound
• After using the restroom
• After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
• After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
• After touching garbage
Although washing your hands is the best way to reduce the number of microbes on your hands in most situations, soap and water might not always be available. In those cases, it is recommended to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
While hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes, they do not eliminate all types of germs. Hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Be sure to rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until dry.
With flu season right around the corner, Ulch said the tips above will help prevent you and loved ones from becoming sick. She also recommended getting a flu shot, which the CDC says is the best way to prevent getting the flu.
The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.
Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
Eating healthy and getting regular exercise also help a person’s immune system fight when it encounters those germs.
“It certainly helps the body fight those when you have been eating right and sleeping,” Ulch said.
Eating fruits and vegetables, drinking water, and limiting screen time while texting, watching television and playing video games are also measures Ulch said can help build a stronger immune system.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control has developed parent brochures that explain when students should be out of school and when they can return. The brochures also contain lists of conditions for which exclusion is not required. Those can be found at scdhec.gov.
Ulch said parents or guardians can contact their school nurse if they have questions or concerns.