Tips on avoiding back-to-school germs


As the first week of the new school year gets under way, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is raising awareness with parents about the importance of good hygiene – both in school and at home.

“Schools can be a common breeding ground for germs and bugs so it is important to take steps to reduce the risk of picking up or spreading germs to others,” said Dr Philip Veal, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA.

Parents and schools can help reduce the spread of germs by encouraging kids to practise good personal hygiene by:

  • Washing hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after using the toilet;
  • Washing hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before eating;
  • Making sure your child carries tissues at all times;
  • Teaching children to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and to use a tissue which is disposed of quickly and carefully in a bin;
  • Teaching children it is good to share, but not to share drinks, food or lip balm;
  • Making sure your child receives the free flu vaccine if they are eligible;
  • Using an alcohol-based hand gel or wipe when hand washing is not possible, such as at school events or during field trips.

The spread of infection can also be reduced by thoroughly cleaning lunchboxes each day and supervising children as they regularly clean out their schoolbags. Use a wet cloth or wipe to remove dripped liquids and food crumbs from schoolbags.

It is also important to keep children at home from school if they are sick.

“Bugs and germs are often found in school and these can be easily passed from child to child,” he said.

“Effective hand washing is one of the most important tools in preventing many illnesses. Clean hands are vital in controlling the spread of infections and other illnesses such as food poisoning and seasonal flu. By following some simple steps we can help to avoid illness.

“A great way for kids to learn about how these infections can spread is using e-Bug, a series of fun online games for primary and secondary school children.

The resources, which are free and matched to the school curriculum, can allow teachers to work with pupils and play games like the Bogey Bus, Microbe Mania, Kitchen Mayhem and Super Sneezes, learning about the spread of microbes while having fun.

For further information on the seasonal flu vaccine see  

For more info on e-Bug, visit