Back-to-school infection prevention

On avoiding infections and contracting illness-causing germs during the back-to-school season, Rhonda Leitch, RN, BSN, CIC, an infection control specialist at McLaren Oakland, urges teachers to reinforce the practice of good hygiene.

"This time of year, with back to school and the older kids heading up to college, we tend to see an increase in infectious illnesses," she said. "This is directly related to our kids living and studying in close proximity-prime conditions for the spread of germs and other disease-causing pathogens."

Leitch strongly encourages good hygienic practices, especially in close-quarter conditions such as college dorms and daycare centers, with schools and teachers consistently reminding their students to:
"¢ Thoroughly wash their hands after going to the bathroom and before and after eating.
"¢ Clean toys or furniture that get visibly dirty and anything that has been exposed to a sick student.
"¢ Teach students proper cough etiquette (covering mouths and noses, using tissue, washing after).

Major points of entry for infection of the body include eyes, nose and mouth-both through inhalation and contaminated food.

"Soap-and-water handwashing should be mandatory teaching for school-age children," Leitch said, "and teachers should have tissue to cover coughs and disinfectant wipes to keep surfaces in the classrooms clean. The use of hand sanitizer should also be encouraged and use frequently when a sink is not available."

Leitch also recommends that all students be up-to-date on their vaccinations.

"All children should be current on their vaccination programs," she said. "All County Health Departments can provide children with all needed vaccinations or they can make an appointment with their pediatrician."

For more information about immunizations or how to make an appointment with a McLaren Oakland pediatrician, visit