Back-to-school welcomes a new season of learning for children, but it also welcomes new germs and bacteria into your home.

As children make their way back to school, innocent activities like sharing toys, recess and being in the classroom can lead to the transfer of germs at an extremely high rate. Couple that with the illnesses plaguing the country right now, and it can be a formula for disaster.

A survey by Clorox found that more than 69% of parents are concerned about their kids bringing germs home from school. And are worried their children will be the source of germs themselves. Millennial parents of color are also more likely to be nervous about back-to-school season in comparison to white millennial parents. And to top things off, millennial parents of color are more often impacted by illness, with 85% reporting they’ve had to shift their lives around due to an ill child, including taking a sick day or unpaid time. Clorox also found that kids’ school clothes are also among the germiest – 28 times worse than a toilet seat, actually.

So now that we have your undivided attention – here’s five ways to protect yourself and your family during back-to-school season, according to Dr. Eva Beaulieu, a board-certified internal medicine hospitalist and Clorox spokesperson.

Stock Up On Supplies

“Back to school shopping is no easy feat. From finding the perfect first-day outfit to mechanical pencils and lined paper – the list goes on, but it’s important to add over-the-counter medications as well as cleaning and disinfecting products to the top because back-to-school is also the start of cold and flu season. 

I recommend buying travel-sized hand sanitizer to put in kids backpacks to use when they’re unable to wash their hands. A mom hack of mine is to purchase some with fun scents and packaging that can clip onto their backpacks to encourage use throughout the day. Teachers can always use extra supplies as well. I always purchase a few extra Clorox Disinfecting Wipes canisters for my kids to bring to their teachers at the start of each school year.”

Healthy Hygiene Habits

“Great hygiene starts by developing healthy habits at home. I recommend teaching your kids the importance of prioritizing their health and helping to protect themselves and their loved ones from illness-causing germs by covering their mouths when coughing and washing their hands often. 

People often forget how many germs can hitch a ride home with their kids from school on more than just their hands. In fact, a recent study from Clorox where participants swabbed a variety of high-touch surfaces and school supplies, revealed that backpacks are 31 times germier than the average cell phone!

Knowing this, I also try to get my children in the habit of leaving their backpacks in the mudroom and then heading straight to the bathroom to wash their hands when they get home from school. This is the perfect time to break out my secret weapon, Clorox Disinfecting Mist, to spray soft surfaces like my kid’s backpacks and help sanitize against lingering germs.”

Photo Credit: Katerina Holmes

Invest In Holistic Health

“It may sound cliché but the best defense is a strong immune system! Plant the seed with your children on the importance of treating their bodies well. Practice healthy habits such as eating a nutrient-dense diet with fruits and vegetables and prioritize consistent and fun exercise and a great night’s sleep – about eight to 12 hours a night, depending on the child’s age!”

Target Hot Spots

“You don’t need to disinfect and sanitize everything but its important to zero in on the high-touch surfaces kids touch the most to help prevent the spread of illness-causing germs, particularly those in shared living and learning spaces like door handles, light switches, counters, remotes, etc. A quick wipe down of your counter after snack time or a spray of the remote takes just seconds and can help ward off pesky illness-causing germs. Clorox Disinfecting Mist and Clorox Disinfecting Wipes are my go-to’s as they are quick, easy and effective.”

Photo Credit: August de Richelieu

Prioritize Down Time

“We all need time to decompress and unwind, even kids! Temper tantrums, brain fog and physical exhaustion are no strangers when you and your kids are burning it at both ends. Help set an example for your children and reinforce the power of self-care. 

Similarly, it is important to know when to stay home. To help recover and prevent the spread of germs, it’s best to keep yourself and your kids home from school or work, and extracurricular activities, until you’re all back on your feet!”

 Dr. Eva Beaulieu is a mother of three and an Internist at Piedmont Henry Hospital outside of Atlanta, Georgia. She completed her residency at the Medical Center of Central Georgia after graduating from Ross University School of Medicine. Dr. Eva knew from a very young age that her purpose was to positively impact the lives of many. With English as her third language, Dr. Eva moved to the U.S. when she was 15 years old. Equipped with a thirst and undeterred passion, she pursued medicine.