HSE teaching kids to prevent the spread of infectious diseases

HSE Press Release: Friday, 17th January 2020

To help improve respiratory hygiene in schools and crèches, the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has developed eye-catching new posters which have been distributed to all schools as part of a resource pack.

Teaching children to sneeze and cough into their arm or elbow is critical to improving respiratory hygiene and in reducing the spread of infection.  Having access to tissues is also important so we can teach children to ‘catch it, bin it, kill it.’

Bacteria and viruses from hundreds of homes meet at crèches, schools and day-care centres every day. It is a fact that the ten best things to spread bugs amongst children are the ten fingers on their hands. 

Young children are at increased risk for contracting infectious diseases because they:

  • tend to sneeze and cough into their hands
  • are grouped together and are exposed to many new germs 
  • have immune systems that are not fully developed to fight germs
  • have personal habits that spread germs such as thumb sucking, rubbing eyes and putting things in their mouths

The posters have versions for primary schools and secondary schools and both are also available in Irish and English. They are aimed at assisting teachers and crèches to teach some of the key respiratory hygiene messages.  We also have an extremely useful online resource for teachers and parents www.e-bug.eu/. e-Bug is a free educational resource for classroom and home use. It enables fun and accessible learning for all students around micro-organisms, the spread, prevention and treatment of infection.

The school section of the website includes:

  • detailed lesson plans
  • fun student worksheets
  • extension activities
  • animations
  • activity demonstrations

Dr John Cuddihy, Interim Director, HSE HPSC says, “It is so important that we do everything to protect children’s health.  Teaching respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene will help stop infections in schools and home.  Good respiratory and hand hygiene can help parents reduce the risk of having to stay home from work due to their child’s or their own illness. However if you are sick it is important to stay home from work or school.  The HSE website Undertheweather.ie has lots of help and advice on managing simple illnesses at home.” 

Martin Cormican, HSE National Lead for Infection Control adds, “As well as teaching children to cough and sneeze into the elbow or a tissue it’s important they know how to wash their hands. The Wash Wash your hands song (listed below) is just long enough to provide sufficient time to get the job done. So, instead of setting a time-frame that your child won't understand, get them to sing their song and explain that when the song is finished they have washed their hands properly.”

There are lots of hand hygiene tips and videos on www.hse.ie/infectioncontrol

Ends

Last updated on: 17 / 01 / 2020