OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – Widespread flu activity ruined many holiday breaks for families in our communities. Now, as students are preparing to head back to school, families can do a few things to help stop spreading germs and contaminating classrooms.

Flu has been rough this year with both A and B strains making the rounds in east Alabama and west Georgia households, offices, and classrooms. Winter break is almost over, and kids returning to school can cause a spike in illness. Some doctors call it the back-to-school plague, and the chances of spreading flu, cold, and strep viruses skyrocket.

Germs can live on surfaces for several days. Families, you can sanitize your student’s backpack by dropping it in the washing machine or wiping it down and spraying with Lysol.

“Kids throw their backpacks all around and can be exposed to a lot so kids when they take their backpacks so yes wash it or at least wipe the straps,” shared Blake McClellan, a Registered Nurse in East Alabama Medical Center’s Emergency Department.

Don’t forget to wash hats and coats or any other items easily contaminated but not cleaned as frequently.

Teachers always appreciate parents donating hand soap, antibacterial wipes, spays or hand sanitizer

Families, if you can send a bottle of anti-bacterial hand soap, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer back to school with your student. Teachers will appreciate the help as they work to keep their classrooms and your kids as germ-free as possible.

Finally, soap and water remain your best defense against getting sick. Teach your kids to wash their hands thoroughly. A fun trick, teach your kids to sing their ABC’s while they scrub. When the song is over, it’s time to rinse.

Soap and water is your best defense against getting sick. Wash your hands thoroughly and often.

“You need to practice washing your hands, that’s the number one most important thing you can do to prevent spreading infection. Also, wipe surfaces with Lysol like doorknobs and handles. If you do get the flu isolate yourself get plenty of rest and drink fluids,” shared McClellan.

McClellan says if you do get sick recoup at home and please only return to work or school when you or your child has been fever-free for 24-hours.

Flu season will last a few more months, so it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine if you have not already. Keep in mind because of the flu outbreak. East Alabama Medical center has restricted visitations hospital-wide to healthy adults ages twelve and up.