Winter germ busters

Germ and flu-busters you need to know about to keep your little ones healthy at this time of year

Germ season is upon us. Everyone is coughing, sneezing and spluttering – so how do you prevent being infected yourself and how long can those germs really survive? The fact is cold viruses can survive outside the body on hard indoor surfaces for a whole week! Flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for 24 hours and for 15 minutes on a tissue. Read on to learn how, with good hygiene management, you can minimise germ hotspots and reduce the duration and severity of symptoms.

Prevention is key:

Get your flu jab

This is best done a couple of weeks before flu main season, which peaks in November and March, although it’s never too late to be vaccinated. Children are super-spreaders and getting them vaccinated helps keep communities well. Children usually receive their vaccine via a nasal spray – some high-risk groups will be eligible for free vaccinations, but anyone can pay for this protective immunisation.

Close contact

Germs are often spread through communities particularly by little ones. This is because their immune systems are still developing, they have unhygienic habits and they are in very close contact with each other. They then bring these bugs home to you.

Hand hygiene

This is the number one way to prevent the spread of infection and can reduce our exposure to nasty bacteria and viruses that can make us extremely ill.

Get your child into the habit of washing their hands in playgroups, when they get home from nursery and always before they eat. This can go a long way to minimising illness.

Handy habits

Using soap and water, wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. Research shows washing with a normal soap or an antibacterial one makes no difference and results are suprisingly the same whether you use hot or cold water.

Make a game of it

The key to getting rid of germs is the friction from soaping up and washing off the suds under running water. Get the children to enjoy lathering up! Remind them to wash between the fingers and around the thumbs.

Dry thoroughly

Damp hands attract germs so make sure your child’s hands are dry. Opt for paper towels rather than communal cloth towels as these can continue to harbour germs. Little ones may find an air dryer noisy but it is the most hygienic option.

Repeat, repeat, repeat

Repeat the hand washing every time you or your child use the loo, touch your face, travels on public transport or before you eat.

Sanitizer saviour

If washing facilities aren’t available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. Carry a bottle at all times. If your child is on a trip without access to soap and water, provide them with small bottle of hand sanitizer or wipes. Very small children should be supervised when using the gel.

Avoid touching

Remind children that eyes, nose and mouth are three key access points for germs so to keep their hands away from their face. A contaminated surface alone will not infect you, it is the passing of that virus from their hands to their mouth or nose, that will make them ill.

In the setting:

Common dangers

Clean communal hot spots. The flu virus can live on surfaces for around 24 hours. Giving commonly touched areas such as fridge handles, taps, kettle and light switches a daily wipe down can help contain germs. Use paper or disposable towels to clean. Reusable cloths should be disinfected or washed at 60C after each use.

Pathogens paradise

Your kitchen sink is the dirtiest place in your setting; it’s the perfect paradise for pathogens to lurk on your taps, tea towels and dishcloths. Clean them daily with soap and hot water or with disinfectant and put the dishwasher and washing machine as appropriate.

Screen wipe

Your smartphone, tablet, laptop, computer keyboard and mouse are all high-risk germ zones. Many of our handheld devices have 10 times more bacteria on them than a toilet seat. So be aware if you let your child pay games on your phone, it is likely to harbour thousands of bugs – particularly if you are in the habit of taking it to the loo with you!

Take cover

Put a 3-feet exclusion zone around anyone who is coughing and sneezing. The flu virus can journey about 3 feet when projected by a cough or a sneeze.

In the case of norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, the particles in the vomit work on the same principle as the sneeze only they can travel further – 10ft to the front and 7ft to the side. Stand well back if someone vomits if you want to avoid infection.


Catch your sneezes in a tissue. If you don’t have a tissue or are too late to get one out, catch the sneeze in the crook of your arm. Teach your children to do the same and to throw their used tissues away, ideally flushed down the loo.

Otherwise use a pedal-operated bin to avoid transferring germs from the bin lid onto hands.

If you have to dispose of used tissues e.g. for a child or older person, wear disposable gloves to avoid contact with the respiratory secretions which contain the flu virus.

It is strongly advised that you attend a fully regulated Practical or Online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.

Morton Michel policyholders receive up to 50% discount on First Aid for Life training courses as part of their exclusive ChildCare Club.

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