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For parents whose kids are going back to school in person, one major concern is that they’ll be bringing home germs to other family members. So besides making sure your child is good at wearing a mask and checking that your school is taking other safety and health precautions, what can you do when your kids get home?
“The priority is to keep a decontaminated home environment because that’s where we worry about the spread to older individuals who are definitely going to be at risk for more severe disease than kids,” Dr. Sandra Kesh, Deputy Medical Director and Infectious Disease Specialist at Westmed Medical Group, told CNET.
It’s important to note that the main way that the coronavirus is spread is through close contact with an infected person. However, the virus can also live on frequently touched surfaces, as can flu viruses and other germs. (And let’s face it, no one wants to come down with a common cold either, especially in these times.)
But which surfaces should you focus on sanitizing? Dr. Kesh recommends cleaning the following items that kids bring home from school daily.
Any phones, tablets, or computers that kids bring to school should be cleaned as soon as they get home. (Adults should do the same with their phones.) But, Dr. Kesh warned, “Be careful to read the directions on the cleaning supplies so you’re careful that you’re not using anything to harm the device.”
Backpacks have probably been on the floor, around other kids all day, and in other contaminated areas, so Dr. Kesh suggested leaving their backpacks near the front door or even in the car, after taking out what they need for their homework.
Cleaning expert Diane Regalbuto, owner of Betty Likes to Clean, said it’s also a good idea to wash backpacks at least once a week. Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions: Some backpacks are machine washable, while others can be wiped down.
Books and supplies
You can wipe off books, folders, and other school supplies that need to be toted to and from school. And if you’re helping kids with homework, it’s smart to wash your hands after handling school supplies—and kids should learn to do the same.
Clothes and shoes
Kids should be in the habit of changing out of school clothes and leaving their shoes by the door when they come home from school. If you can, Dr. Kesh recommends changing your routine so that kids are taking a shower or bath right after school to avoid spreading germs around the house.
In a live Q&A about back-to-school safety during the pandemic, emergency medicine physician Arabia Mollette, M.D. agreed that kids should put their clothes in a bag to be laundered as soon as they get home, then head to the bathroom to take a shower or bath and change into clean clothes. She also emphasized reminding kids that, once they’ve come home from school and taken these steps, they shouldn’t go out to play again with other kids or else the process will need to be repeated. However, in the same Q&A event Dara Kass, M.D. cautioned that a lengthly procedure might be traumatic for some kids, so a hand sanitizer by the door might be sufficient as long as the kids have been diligent about wearing masks and washing their hands at school.
If your child brings a lunchbox to school, make sure you’re cleaning the inside and outside of it every night. Depending on the material, you might be able to wash it in the sink or dishwasher, or wipe it down. Some fabric ones can even be thrown in the washing machine once a week for a deeper clean.