As students head back to school, the medical experts of Englewood Hospital and Medical Center offer tips to help families stay healthy once class is in session, starting with a few lessons in hand hygiene.

“Clean hands are the best defense against picking up infections,” said Mary Ellen Walter, RN, Infection Control Coordinator at Englewood Hospital. “You can use soap and water or an alcohol based sanitizer. Sneezing or coughing into your elbow can also help stop germs from spreading. Students should also stay home from school when sick with a cold or flu for at least 24 hours.”

The National Education Association reports schools can be a breeding ground for germs, with nearly three-million bacteria living on water fountain spouts, more than 33-thousand bacteria on cafeteria trays and 15-thousand on cafeteria plates.

Study up on the following guidelines to help protect your friends and family from catching the cold or flu:

Wet your hands with clean, warm water.

Use antibacterial or regular soap and rub your hands together to create a thick lather.

Scrub the back of your hands, fingers, palms, in between your fingers and around your nails for at least 15 seconds.

Hum the ABC’s to help time it out.

Rinse your hands well and dry them off with a cloth or paper towel.

In addition to frequent, proper hand-washing, students can give their immune system a boost with breakfast – the most important meal of the day. Balanced, nutritious vitamin-packed foods like whole grain cereal, yogurt, eggs and fruit will help keep kids fully-charged and ready to hit the books.

To watch “Dr. Rich Lather” talk about fighting germs with your bare hands, you can view a video on You Tube or go to the Medical Center’s YouTube Channel, EnglewoodHospitalNJ.