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How is your child's germ etiquette?

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Sneeze and thank you

Manners aren't just please and thank you. They aren't just chewing with your mouth closed or not interrupting. Manners have an impact, not just on our interactions with others, but in our personal health and the health of the community. Learning the right way to handle a sneeze or a cough and washing hands regularly are manners issues AND health issues.

Girl sneezing into elbow

Recent global health concerns have highlighted the way germs spread among a population of people - and triggered much discussion about how to stop the spread. More and more, kids are learning about germs and managing them, whether from external or internal sources, from teachers and caregivers as well as parents. It's a community effort for the community - etiquette on a larger scale.

Interactions - or no interactions

Kids are notorious germ spreaders. Preschools and play areas are fertile ground for growing and spreading germs. One sniffly nose and sneeze coupled with one back of the hand wipe can spread a bacteria or a virus to dozens of other kids.

While staying away from crowded playgounds when your child has a cold is preferable, it's not always realistic. More than one mom has felt that if she sequestered herself and her kids during every sniffle, they'd have no life at all! So it's a balance to strike - teaching your kids that staying away from others when even a little bit sick is good etiquette, but if they have to be out and about, practice good germ etiquette. Just as with other areas of etiquette, manners are about considering other people.

Is your child too sick to go to school? Find out here the signs and symptoms that he should take a sick day.

Coughing, sneezeing and blowing your nose

If you can't completely separate you and your child during a minor cold, learning cough and sneeze etiquette at least helps. Teaching your child to cough and sneeze into their shoulder or elbow instead of directly into hands (which then touch other things, and further spread the germs) is just one way to go.

Similarly, blowing one's nose has some etiquette involved, too. Even with a hankerchief or tissues, some germs are blown into the air. And being as loud and honking as possible is definitely not the point! In addition, washing hands and/or use of antibacterial hand gel immediately after blowing one's nose is critical to help stop the spread of germs.

Does your child have a cold or is it allergies? Find out the difference here.

Washing hands

Regular, complete washing hands is critcal to other manners. We teacher kids how to wash hands after using the toilet very early on, and that's a great start. When we want to teach our kids how to shake hands when meeting someone, we want to make sure those are clean hands! Antibacterial gel is great in a pinch, but real handwashing cannot be beat - so regular hand washing is a must, especially after being in one of those notoriously germy kid-frequented environments. Hands may not appear dirty, but bacteria and viruses are microscopic. Better not to take the chance and teach kids regular, consistent handwashing techniques.?

For more tips, read 8 steps to cleaner, healthier hands.

More tips on health and manners:

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