Coming clean: Students learn to prevent spreading germs

COVINGTON - About 150 kindergartners at Fairview Theme School are now champion hand-washers.

A school parent, who also is a nurse at Rockdale Medical Center, visited seven kindergarten classes Friday to give a lesson on hand washing and talk to the students about spreading germs.

"With the up and coming flu season, I know schools are where it's going to grow the most," said Stevanie Kimble, a parent of a kindergartner and a first-grader at the school. "I think (students) are the first line of defense. If you get them washing their hands and not spreading germs around, that's the best thing you can do."

During the special lesson - which helped Kimble fulfill some volunteer hours at the parent-involvement theme school - Kimble sprayed the students with "germs" and showed them how they can spread them around the classroom.

"You have to try to make it fun or they're not going to understand," she said.

Kindergarten teacher Laura Dufford said it's easy for the younger students to spread germs because all of their backpacks are together and they have nap time together. Kimble also said they often share drinks and are always putting their hands in their eyes or mouths after they touch dirty surfaces.

"A lot of viruses and bacteria can stay on classroom hard surfaces for two hours or longer," Kimble said. "So they can go outside to the playground and come back and still get infected, especially if they put their hands in their mouths."

She stressed to students to wash their hands after they go outside, after they use the restroom, before they eat and after they play with a classroom pet.

"They need to make sure they wash their hands for 20 seconds or longer with soap and water to kill the germs," she said, adding that they can sing the entire "Alphabet Song" or "Happy Birthday" twice. "I also tell them that even though their hands might not look dirty, they still are."

She also advised students to sneeze and cough into their elbows - a somewhat new philosophy.

"They used to tell us to sneeze or cough into our hands, but they finally realized that it could help pass on germs," said Kimble, who has been a nurse in the ICU at RMC for more than three years and has subbed as a school nurse in previous years. "Now we have to sneeze into the crease of our elbows."

At Fairview, classrooms are equipped with sinks and hand sanitizer and often have teachers wiping down surfaces with antibacterial wipes, which Kimble acknowledged help reduce the spread of germs.

After the lesson, Kimble presented the students with Champion Hand Washers certificates.

"You are now a champion hand washer," Kimble told the students. "We don't want anybody getting sick this winter, so wash your hands."

This week, Kimble is talking to first-graders in the school.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: At A Glance

Wash your hands with soap and water when:

· You return from outside

· After you use the restroom

· Before you eat

· After you play with a pet

· After you blow your nose or get your hands dirty

Other tips:

· Use antibacterial wipes to clean hard surfaces.

· Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, or until you sing the entire "Alphabet Song" or "Happy Birthday" twice.

· Use warm water when it's available.

· Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

· Sneeze and cough into the crease of your elbow.

· Don't put your hands in your mouth or eyes.

· Don't share drinks.