Good hand washing protects against the spread of many illnesses – from the common cold (which is responsible for 22 million lost school days each year), to more serious illnesses such meningitis, flu, hepatitis A, and more types of infectious diarrhea.
Kids don’t always wash their hands after using the bathroom, before eating, or when they come inside from playing. It’s a message worth repeating, hand washing is by far the best way to keep kids from getting sick and prevent germs from spreading.
Germs can spread in many ways, including:
- touching dirty hands
- on contaminated surfaces
- contaminated water and food
- through droplets in the air released during a cough or sneeze
- through contact with a sick person’s body fluids
- changing dirty diapers
When kids come into contact with germs, they can unknowingly become infected simply by touching their nose, eyes, or mouth. And it’s usually just a matter of time, once infected, before the whole family comes down with the same illness.
Teach your kids how to wash hands correctly or better yet, wash your hands together so they learn how important this good habit is:
- Wash your hands in warm running water (make sure the water isn’t too hot for little hands).
- Apply soap and lather well for about 20 seconds (antibacterial soap isn’t necessary, any soap will do). Make sure you get the backs of your hands, your wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
- Rinse well under running water and make sure all traces of soap are removed then dry well with a clean towel (give each family member their own towel and wash the towels often).
Make regular hand washing a rule (to minimize the germs passed around your family) for everyone, especially:
- after using the bathroom
- eating and cooking
- after cleaning around the house
- after being outside
- after touching animals, including family pets
- before and after visiting or taking care of any sick friends or relatives
- after blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing
The few seconds you spend at the sink could save you trips to the doctor’s office, don’t underestimate the power of hand washing!