Kleenex® teaches NZ kids to be SneezeSafe®

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If the kids come home from school in the next few weeks with glitter on their hands, it might not be from art class. The glitter might be make-believe flu virus droplets from a (pretend) unwashed sneeze.

Health officials are issuing predictions that the influenza season will come early this year, so Public Health Nurses and teachers around the country are preparing respiratory hygiene lessons in classrooms, as part of the health curriculum, ahead of schedule.

Since 2005, the Kleenex® Tissues SneezeSafe® lesson has become popular among teachers and nurses looking for effective ways to convey vital messages to children about why they need to trap their sneezes and how to master the art of respiratory hygiene, using a simple three-step approach:

  1. Trap it - with a tissue, cupped hands or the inside of your elbow
  2. Bin it
  3. Wash it

Why 'trap it'? To help make the lesson stick, teachers use water spray to show the class how far and fast an untrapped sneeze can spread flu virus particles through the air, and bubbles to show how long the invisible droplets can float in the air for others to breathe. When water lands on the children's faces or bubbles pop in their hair, teachers say the message gets through.

Why 'wash it'?  Teachers show how far unwashed hands can spread infectious droplets by involving the whole class in a glitter handshake. This teaching and learning technique, developed by Kleenex SneezeSafe, is now part of the Heart Foundation's Government-funded fight against rheumatic fever.

For the ninth year, free teaching resources are being made available by Kleenex Tissues for schools and Public Health Nurses to download at www.sneezesafe.co.nz. And this year they are offering 50 'model' SneezeSafe schools a teaching kit and cupboard full of tissues as an incentive to register early.

Dr Lance Jennings, Clinical Virologist and Clinical Associate Professor, Canterbury Health Laboratories (Canterbury District Health Board), has independently championed the Kleenex
SneezeSafe programme since it was first offered to New Zealand schools in 2005. He presented a paper¹ in Malta in 2011 about the unique approach New Zealand has taken with the SneezeSafe classroom programme in mitigating influenza and other respiratory virus infections in communities². Dr Jennings is also spokesperson for The National Influenza Specialist Group warning that early onset of the flu season is likely in New Zealand this winter.

¹ Jennings LC, Elton S. The SneezeSafe® Programme: A novel approach to community mitigation of influenza and other respiratory virus infections. Options for the Control of Influenza VIII, September 2011, Malta (Abstracts).
² Jennings LC. Keeping Respiratory Disease Out of the Community. J NZ Coll Prim Hlth Care Nurses 2011;10(2):6-9.

THE SNEEZESAFE STORY

SS_logo _2There are more than a million children in Poland, United Kingdom, Australia and the United States learning to sneeze safely with the help of a respiratory hygiene lesson developed in New Zealand.

The Kleenex SneezeSafe lesson was created and first adopted in kiwi classrooms in 2005 and has become an annual feature of respiratory hygiene education in New Zealand, and now among children in other countries too, with the back-up of high-level health educators.

The lesson plan and poster available to all schools FREE on-line helps teachers deliver a short and engaging lesson. In the SneezeSafe lesson children are taught to trap their sneezes, bin their tissues and wash their hands. The message to them is simple - trap it, bin it, wash it. 

Children learn how far and fast un-trapped sneezes travel and why they are the biggest culprit in the transfer of cold and flu viruses. They learn how the brain sends messages to muscles in the body to execute a sneeze which has the potential to send thousands of infectious droplets into the air for others to breathe.

Designed to lift standards of cold and flu hygiene practised by children and to stop bad habits before they start, the classroom programme responds to the 'Personal Health and Physical Development' and 'Healthy Communities and Environments' strands of the national health curriculum.

For further information contact:
Sally Elton   09 486 5256 / 0274 980 568;  sally@elton.co.nz


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