The title identifies the three components of infection in a school environment, and each of those components requires its own protective measures. The kids are the most precious resource being protected; the germs are the enemy from which they are being protected; and the school is the environment in which the risk of infection has to be managed. What needs to be done with regard to each of these components to prevent the spread of infection and ensure the health, well-being and protectivity of students and teachers?
The rules and protocols for children are essentially the same as for adults, with regard to healthy living, specifically in a confined indoor environment.
- Use a tissue or the crook of an arm to capture sneezes and coughs, to prevent the transmission of microbes on to surfaces that other students or teachers may touch. The difference with children is that this may be a new protocol to them, something else to be learned and remembered, along with their multiplication tables, alphabet, vocabulary. There will be lapses in the learning process. Persistence and clarity in presenting these health protocols is essential to their own health. The presence of antimicrobial shields for the affected surfaces, as provided by SafeHandles™, offers an effective barrier for when they forget.
- For children not formally educated in such matters, the invasion of personal space may be a common occurrence. That inclination needs to be disrupted as soon and thoroughly as possible because the oral transmission of microbes occurs not only with microbes carried by sneeze or cough to surfaces in the environment, but also with coughs, sneezes, and incidental spitting that occurs while speaking at close range. Unnecessary touching should also be discouraged.
- Touching, whether it is of another student, or of a handrail, door knob, desk, or table, is the primary source of microbe transmission. Instructing children in the effective protocol for hand washing and providing them with the necessary resources to achieve it (hot water, soap, hot-air hand dryer (or hands-free paper towel dispenser with hands-free waste receptacle) is necessary for kids to contribute to the prevention of microbial transmission. For the environmental side of the transmission process, daily cleaning and constant disinfection of the environment is necessary.
The school, as the unique environment in which children gather and spend most of their day at closer quarters than their adult equivalents in the workplace, has unique challenges to meet in terms of antimicrobial intervention. Dozens of desks, often little more than a foot apart in any direction, bring students into involuntary close contact. As mentioned above, getting those students to not get any closer than necessary, to cover their mouths, to wash their hands regularly, is crucial. Cleaning and disinfection of those desks (and handles, railings, playground equipment, and shared resources) on a daily basis is also necessary. SafeHandles™ can amplify the disinfection process by reducing the ability of infection causing germs from returning to commonly touched surfaces. The air on which many of the microbes are borne, before settling on environmental surfaces, should be as clean as possible, requiring the regular maintenance and replacement of HVAC filters and disinfecting of piping through electrostatic fogging treatments. With all of these measures in place, the onus falls back on the students, and the teachers who instruct and monitor them, to instill healthy practices – in the classroom and outside it.
The third factor – the germs themselves – is what we at SafeHandles™ are dedicated to eradicating from the human environment.