Whilst not considered the deadly epidemic it was several years ago, the threat of swine flu (H1N1) is still very much in existence and is still a serious potential danger in certain environments. In schools, a viral outbreak can be particularly damaging, and recent cases of primary school pupils contracting the illness have cast a spotlight on how schools can better educate children in the prevention of such threats.
But the buck does not stop with swine flu. Any viral outbreak serves to highlight a wider issue within our schools in how effectively we communicate basic hand hygiene best-practice.
Children are more susceptible to viruses as their immune systems are still developing. Combine this with the fact that they are perhaps yet to learn the importance of hand hygiene and there is a very real threat that many children could miss out on valuable time spent in the classroom. Research by Handz – a campaign founded to raise awareness on hand hygiene – suggests that almost 60% of overall absences from school is due to illness. That is alarmingly high.
The good news, however, is that by taking simple precautionary measures, schools can reduce the threat whilst influencing a lasting lesson in personal hygiene.
Teaching hand hygiene
By instilling the importance of hand hygiene into children’s minds at a young age, it can result in a habitual engagement in hand-washing that will last their entire lives – protecting both themselves and others from the many serious illnesses contracted through human-to-human or human-to-surface contact.
Children need to understand that our hands are the main vehicle for transmitting germs. Now, obviously, children’s natural curiosity means their hands will come into contact with any number of objects and surfaces during any given day. Nobody would want to discourage this, but if they are aware that any innocuous action could result in the spread of germs, the importance of frequently washing their hands will resonate.
And communicating the message needn’t be a chore. Organisations such as Handz offer schools with bespoke programmes to help educate the children. Strategies within the programme include light-hearted educational talks or support materials such as posters, and, to truly engage students, a ‘design a dispenser’ competition that encourages the children to get creative – all the while embedding an awareness of hand hygiene best-practices into their young minds.
Proactive in partnership
Swine flu is just one example of a preventable illness that children need to be aware of. It is up to the schools themselves to convey the message of good hand hygiene in an engaging, digestible way, so that their students can lead happy, healthy lives in school and beyond.
Deb Group are proud sponsors of the Handz campaign. We offer our support to the campaign and participating schools by providing a range of foam wash soaps and sanitisers, along with the aforementioned educational resources and training. We are passionate about the issue, and implore schools in the UK to share this.