- With schools opening back up amidst the coronavirus pandemic, it’s vital for children to have a variety of health supplies on hand to help them avoid getting sick.
- Consider stocking up on everything from washable cloth masks and hand sanitizer to reusable water bottles and disinfectant wipes â€” and it’s recommended to buy extra or in bulk quantities.
- We spoke to Dr. Thomas Russo, a professor at the University of Buffalo who specializes in infectious diseases, for insight into how parents and children can prepare to go back to school.
- This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Hana Akslerod, MD, MPH, and an assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the GWU School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
With summer rapidly coming to an end, parents across the country are busy preparing to send their kids back to school. But unlike in years past, the annual return to the classroom is currently shrouded in uncertainty and doubt thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With coronavirus infections on the rise amongst children, it seems that the resumption of normal school activities could be fraught with challenges throughout the fall. So much so that some cities and states have elected to start the school year by continuing to use distance learning techniques, while others are moving ahead with plans to get students physically back into their schools.
Unsurprisingly, this spurred plenty of discussions centered around whether or not it’s actually safe for kids to be in close proximity to their classmates and teachers. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) still recommends social distancing and wearing a mask while out in public, both of which can be difficult in a classroom setting. Still, most everyone agrees that the educational process must get back underway just as it has in autumns past.
The question is, how do we do that safely for both the students and the educators?
Stock up on high-quality masks
Dr. Thomas Russo, a professor at the University of Buffalo who specializes in infectious diseases, told Business Insider that masks play a significant role in that process. “I think the key thing that needs to be on everyone’s shopping list, whether it’s online or in stores, is that your children have a good supply of high-quality masks,” Russo said.
It isn’t just about having a few masks to wear, though. As Dr. Russo is quick to point out, we need to pay close attention to the quality of those masks. He recommends buying ones that are made from multi-layer, high-density fabrics that have a high thread count.
“If you can see through it or you can blow through it, and you can feel air on the other side, it’s probably a poor-quality mask and shouldn’t be used,” Russo said.
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He went on to recommend avoiding the use of bandanas and scarves as replacements for a proper mask, indicating that they don’t adequately prevent the spread of droplets that are potentially infected with the virus.
Make sure masks fit correctly
The actual fit of a mask isn’t something that gets talked about all that much, but Dr. Russo acknowledged how crucial a role it plays in their overall effectiveness. He stressed the importance of finding a mask that’s appropriately sized for your child’s face, providing coverage of both the mouth and nose at all times.
Additionally, masks should fit snugly but not in a confining or restrictive way. The right mask is something a child feels comfortable wearing for a prolonged period of time, which will likely be the case for most of their day at school.
You can’t have too much hand sanitizer
Dr. Russo also suggests that parents stock up on antibacterial hand sanitizer, recommending that they buy both a large and a small bottle. The small bottle goes into a student’s school bag to be used throughout the day, particularly after interacting with shared surfaces such as doorknobs or computer keyboards. As the supply of sanitizer dwindles in the smaller bottle, it can be replenished using the larger.
“There are naturally going to be some high touch surfaces,” Russo said. “But as long as you clean up with hand sanitizer you should be ok.”
It’s recommended that parents make sure to practice with their children how to properly their hands with soap and water, and how to use hand sanitizer correctly. When purchasing hand sanitizer, review the FDA’s advisory about which products to avoid that have been flagged for contamination with methanol or other harmful chemicals.
Children should also be told to never, under any circumstances, ingest hand sanitizer. The American Academy of Pediatrics even warns about having hand sanitizer anywhere within reach of children five years or younger.
Editor’s note: During a fact check prior to this piece publishing, medical reviewer, Dr. Hana Akslerod, suggested the above advice about teaching children how to wash their hands and being cautious with hand sanitizer.
In order to make the return to the classroom as safe and seamless as possible, there are a few other things that parents might want to add to their back to school shopping list this year. Here are a few suggestions that will help make your life easier in the weeks ahead, while also allowing your children to remain safe and healthy at the same time.
Here are the best back-to-school supplies to stock up on:
- Reusable cloth face masks: Cubcoats Kids Face Masks
- Face shield: TheCoolestShields Face Shields for Kids
- Reusable water bottle: Yeti Rambler Jr. Water Bottle
- Reusable lunch box: Hydro Flask Kids Insulated Lunch Box
- Portable silverware kit: Lianyu Kids Silverware Utensil Set
- Reusable storage bags: Fredi Reusable Storage Bags
- Hand sanitizer spray: 4F Wellness Hand Sanitizer Spray
- Hand sanitizer lotion: Solimo Hand Sanitizer Lotion
- Disinfectant wipes: Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
- Tissues: Kleenex Tissue Packs
- Yoga mat: Gaiam Kids Yoga Mat
Cubcoats Kids Face Masks
While kid-sized disposable face masks are inexpensive and convenient, reusable cloth masks have their advantages too. For starters, they tend to be more durable and comfortable, while often offering a higher level of protection.
Colorful and fun, the Cubcoats Kids Face Masks are designed specifically for children ages 5 and up. These masks cover the mouth and nose and use two layers of fabric for improved filtration and durability. A built-in pocket accommodates a replaceable filter as well, which proves especially useful for children who suffer from asthma or other respiratory ailments.
Keep the masks clean by washing them by hand every few days and you’ll have all the masks you need to make it through the school year. You might even want to pack two so your child always has a spare on hand.
TheCoolestShields Face Shields for Kids
A brand called TheCoolestShields offers options designed specifically for kids that comes with an adjustable strap built to accommodate smaller heads. The plastic shields are lightweight, high quality, and easy to keep clean, allowing them to be reused over and over again. They also come in a variety of designs, giving kids a chance to express their personality. Some of those designs include an astronaut’s helmet, a cat, princess, and even a Viking.
Yeti Rambler Jr. Water Bottle
A reusable water bottle is not only good for the environment, it also helps keep your kids safe and hydrated while at school. The CDC recommends students bring their own bottles and refill them from fountains rather than sharing those fountains directly with classmates.
The Yeti Rambler Jr. is not only durable enough to survive daily commutes to and from school, it also comes in a variety of colors, and includes a handy straw built right into its cap. Capable of keeping water cold for hours at a time, it’s a great hydration solution for children returning to the classroom.
Hydro Flask Kids Insulated Lunch Box
There’s no question that this school year will be unlike any in the past and in some places, the hot lunch program may be altered, disrupted, or nonexistent. If your child plans on bringing their own lunch on a regular basis, they’ll need a lunch box to safely house their snacks and meals.
The new Hydro Flask Kids Insulated lunchbox is a lightweight and colorful option designed specifically for kids. It comes in four vibrant designs and is insulated to keep food fresh for several hours. It also happens to pair nicely with Hydro Flask’s 12 oz. Food Flask for those days when you want to include something warm or cold with your child’s lunch.
Lianyu Kids Silverware Utensil Set
If you’re packing your child’s lunch, there’s a good chance you’ll need to include some utensils to help them eat it, too. Lianyu’s nine-piece silverware kit makes this incredibly easy, allowing you to include not just a fork, spoon, and knife, but also two straws (straight and bent) and a set of chopsticks.
The kit even comes with a brush that can be used to clean the utensils and a carrying case to keep everything organized. Best of all, each of the items is made from stainless steel, which means they’re dishwasher safe and can be reused many times.
Fredi Reusable Storage Bags
While reusable storage bags have always been a good way to keep food fresh while remaining eco-friendly, they can be highly useful in other ways, too. For instance, these bags are a good way to carry a clean face mask before it’s worn, and they’re a safe place to store used masks and gloves prior to washing or disposal.
Made from thin and lightweight (yet still durable) silicon, theses bags are something you’ll find plenty of uses for right now. Thankfully, Fredi sells them in a 12-pack of various sizes, ensuring you’ll have plenty on hand for when you need them.
4F Wellness Hand Sanitizer Spray
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of using hand sanitizer amidst a pandemic, but it’s even more vital once kids are back in school. Interacting with more people on a daily basis increases the chances of exposure to any virus, but by regularly using hand sanitizer, the risks can be mitigated to some degree.
4F Wellness offers a non-alcohol based hand sanitizer spray that’s highly effective, easy to carry, and completely nontoxic, making it safe for both kids and pets. Be sure to toss a bottle into your child’s school bag and remind them to use it regularly throughout the day.
Solimo Hand Sanitizer Lotion
If you prefer an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that comes in bulk size and lotion form, Solimo has you covered. Capable of killing more 99.99% of all harmful germs in less than 15 seconds, this sanitizer is both fast and effective.
It also happens to ship in a large jug (67.6 fl. oz.), ensuring that you won’t run out of lotion anytime soon. Pair it with a set of reusable squeeze bottles and you’ll always have hand sanitizer available no matter where you go.
Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
In addition to using hand sanitizer to quickly kill germs, health officials also recommend using disinfectant to clean the surfaces we come in contact with. Clorox Disinfectant Wipes make that process easy and convenient, killing 99.999% of bacteria on contact. This makes them perfect for use on your child’s backpack, lunchbox, school supplies, and other items that could potentially be exposed to unwanted germs in the classroom.
Using these wipes immediately after school helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as a host of other common viruses.
Kleenex Tissue Packs
Facial tissues are another useful item for young students to have at their disposal when heading back to school. Not only are they handy when it comes to helping prevent the spread of germs, they’ve also been shown to serve as a good filter in the masks we wear, too.
Kleenex tissue packs were probably already a must-have for any parent with small children, but this year they’ll be even more important to have around. In order to keep plenty on hand, stock with a pack of eight.
Gaiam Kids Yoga Mat
In an effort to keep students safely apart from one another, some schools will be holding classes outside, in the gym, or in large auditoriums. Those locations may allow the children to spread out more than they could in a normal classroom, but they aren’t always the most comfortable and accommodating places to sit.
Add a kid’s yoga mat to your back-to-school supplies and your child will have a soft, easily transportable, and protective option to sit on. Gaiam makes yoga mats that come with charming designs and kid-friendly sizes at affordable prices.