This Is How Many Germs Your Kid Encounters At School Each Day

My children are wonderful. I'd do anything for them, truly. But they're also disgusting little walking petri dishes who gladly share ice pops with friends. Gross. Colds and viruses will happen, especially when it comes to kids, but how many germs your kid encounters at school each day will seriously gross you out. (Or impress you.) It's worth knowing some ways to minimize the risk and protect your kids' immunity once they start school because, unfortunately, you can't always be there to throw away that ice pop. Or keep them in a bubble. Or hose them off.

According to ABC News, the objects in your children's school have germ counts ranging from 2,000 to almost 15,000 depending on the location and use of said items. Granted, not all bacteria or germs are harmful, some are benign, but just the idea — ew. And honestly, most of those germs probably aren't coming from where you think. CNN reported that bathroom doors (not the actual bathroom), cafeteria trays, desks, art supplies, sports equipment, and playground equipment are some of the most germ-ridden areas in a school. Noticing a theme here? Those are a lot of shared items touched by many kids, so knowing how to improve your child's immune system and keep them from spreading bacteria is imperative.

The first thing you can do begins before they even enter school, and that is to vaccinate your children. Not only will it prevent your child from getting possibly deadly diseases like the measles and pertussis, it also helps maintain herd immunity, which helps to protect those children who cannot be vaccinated or who are particularly immunocompromised due to illness or immune disorder.

You should also try to get them to eat their five to nine servings of fruits and veggies every day to help ward off the germs. According to The American Journal of Preventative Medicine, fruits and veggies are dense with vitamins and anti-oxidants that boost a child's immune system, helping to protect them from bacteria and viruses.

Don't forget to send those kids outside to play when they come home from school, too. Sunshine, playing outside, and vitamin D are linked to overall improved immune functions in children, according to The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Vitamin D and sunlight are even linked to a lower rate of food allergy and reaction in children. Playing outside has double benefits, too — according to The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, children who have regular physical activity, at least 30 minutes per day, are healthier than children who do not.

Another way to help? Make sure your kids wash their hands. They're touching a lot of shared items at school (remember the most germ-ridden ones), and they need to know how to actually sanitize their paws. According to the Cleveland Clinic, proper hand washing technique begins at home. Encourage your kids to wash their hands frequently, in warm, soapy water, to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses.

At the end of the day, let them rest. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a good night's sleep is paramount for a healthy immune system. Preschoolers should sleep between 10 and 13 hours per night, elementary students should get between nine and 11 hours per night, and high schoolers between eight and 10 hours, according to the article. Also, that early bed time is the perfect time to watch Orange is the New Black without them possibly coming in and your needing to explain profit-based prison systems. Win.

As for over-the-counter vitamins, the new fad of health shakes for children, and especially essential oils, those are things you should really discuss with your pediatrician. But with a few simple habits that you probably already have in place, you're doing a lot for the health of your children. (And their friends at school.) Just remember to keep them home when they're sick so the next parent doesn't have to scrub their kids' hands raw in the sink every day.