Keeping kids healthy – daydream or nightmare?

Girl with tissue
Germs in the air – catching as long as they’re there

Roula chose Budding Leaf for the name of her nursery school. It seemed perfect for young minds and bodies starting out and growing up.

Mums loved it too. There were plants all over the place and an adventure garden outside for when the weather was good. And every child had a growing patch of their own. A place to grow carrots, or lavender, or whatever.

The first year was fantastic. A nice bunch of children, a glowing write-up in the local glossy, smiling faces at the bank. A real story-book success.

The second year was great too – for the first three days.

Then the coughs and sneezes started. And the upchucks. Went round the little ones like wildfire.

It was the slippery slope. Parents all aggro and swearing, double-parked to rescue their darlings. The awful CLOSED sign. Neighbours looking daggers. Police ranting about causing obstructions. The community people demanding an inspection.

The doc put Roula on Xanax. Her husband took the double scotch option. Neither of them knew what the heck had hit them. First-time victims. Severe After-Holiday-itis.

Why? The whole place was spotless. Roula did the charring herself every afternoon. The front room, the loo, the whole disinfectant and air freshener treatment.

Her husband, Matt, made the connection. Stuck on the wall in the “What I did for the holidays” drawings. Long-distance bugs, brought home on the plane from Phuket, Kerala, Fuerteventura and Orlando. And that twinge of upchuck from little Ravi – that kind of smell never went away.

Aeroplane-flu or runny tummy, it didn’t matter. With the kids all together, they had to come down with it. And the germs hung in the air at the end of the day. Ready to have another go if the first time didn’t work.

Orlando. Disney spells. One of the Mums had brought her a goody-bag. Roula half-looked at it, thinking about the closing notices she would have to send out.

Half-wrapped in a Cruella de Vil T-shirt was an aerosol can. Total release fogger – kills germs in seconds. A curiosity from her friend Siobhan, as OCD about hygiene as she was.

Germs in the air. Roula hadn’t thought of that. Coughing, sneezing, of course. No wipe-down would ever fix it, no matter how thorough. What they breathed was not sterilised.

She put the can in the middle of the floor, shut the windows and doors, pressed the button and left. Then peered in from outside to watch what it did. Billowing clouds of white nothing. Her heart sank.

An hour later she dared to open the door. No cloud, no smell. The lingering pong of upchuck was gone. Nothing else, but it felt fresh, with a slight lemony tang.

Right there and then, her confidence spiked and she took the CLOSED sign off the front door. Budding Leaf was back in business and she would tough it out.

There were stayaways of course. Ravi with his Delhi-belly. Trinity and Andrew with their sniffles. The Allen twins with their funny cough. Half the school.

But the next day was a gas and nobody got sick or anything. The germs were gone.

Of course Roula was on the phone to Siobhan for more of the stuff. And Siobhan didn’t know. She’d lifted it from the room-valeting trolley as a lark. Total room steriliser, had to be good for something.

It took Roula a day on the phone and another on the Internet. Now Budding Leaf gets treated every night with hydrogen peroxide. Cost a bit to set it up, but all the Mums were up for it. Sterilised nursery school – what was not to like?

Budding Leaf is moving next spring. A bigger place round the corner. They need it for all the extra kids. Extra healthy kids. The local glossy made a big thing about that too.