Schoolkids snuff out the big sniff

ALEXIA JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 21/04/2014
molly fitzgerald, xan brown
JOHN BISSET/ Fairfax NZ

SPREADING THE WORD: Gleniti School pupils Molly Fitzgerald and Xan Brown, both 8, demonstrating the dangers of flu season and how a sneeze can hit you in the face.

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Timaru pupils are leading the way to a healthier winter through safe sneezing practice.

One thousand Timaru children from 40 schools are taking part in a hygiene initiative, supported by their teachers, medical experts and the South Canterbury and Canterbury District Health Boards.

Gleniti School pupils have started the lessons and are already experts at putting what they have learnt in to practice.

Luke Von Melville, 8, is one of them.

"We need to trap [the sneeze] with a tissue. We need to bin [the tissue] and if we sneeze into our hands, we need to wash our hands before we eat."

Children are also being taught to sneeze into their elbow.

Ruby Cameron, 8, said good hygiene was important.

"We need to wash our hands because we might get germs and it might make us sick."

A spray bottle was used to show the children just how quickly germs can spread. They were also given glitter to hold. They then had to shake each others hands to see how it spreads, similar to that of germ particles.

The SneezeSafe initiative is into its 10th year. However, this year's programme has started ahead of schedule in a bid to combat the early arrival of flu to the community.

Year 3-4 teacher Lorraine Currie said children had adapted well to the lessons.

"I think they are very effective.

"It's helped them to see how far germs can spread so easily. The handshaking was particularly good to show how you can pass germs to each other [using glitter]."

Clinical virologist and clinical associate professor at Canterbury Health Laboratories Dr Lance Jennings said last winter was one of New Zealand's "lighter" flu seasons on record.

He said health education in schools, and government-funded flu vaccinations for the elderly, children and other at risk people was helping.

"Last year levels stayed below the baseline and we saw fewer hospitalisations from respiratory complications from influenza affecting children and the elderly."

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- The Timaru Herald

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