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Help Your Children Make Handwashing a Habit

November 30, 2018

With flu season approaching and the school year in full-swing, it’s a good time to talk to your kids about handwashing. Classrooms provide a space to learn, but also bring kids in close contact with each other, creating an opportunity for germs to spread.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, handwashing can prevent one in three diarrhea-related sicknesses and one in five respiratory infections such as the cold or flu. Keep your child healthy, safe and in the classroom this school year by reminding them about handwashing basics.

Germs are often introduced to our bodies from our hands. Sometimes it happens when we touch our eyes, nose and mouth throughout the day without noticing, but also through food preparation. This may not be a concern for your child yet but is an important reminder for when making breakfast and packing lunches on early mornings during the school year.

“Remind your child that germs can be transferred to doorknobs, toys, tables and their classmates,” says Krista Gelford, MD, pediatrics specialist at Kettering Health Network.

When to wash

There’s never a bad time to give your hands an extra rinse with soap and water, but Dr. Gelford says to remind your child that washing hands is especially important in these situations:

  • Before meal and snack times
  • After using the bathroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • If your hands are visibly dirty, such as after outdoor play
  • After handling an animal, its cage or its food
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After touching garbage

Hand wash how-to

Reminding your child of the correct way to clean their hands will help avoid sickness. Consider crafting a sign for the bathroom area, especially for very young children. Dr. Gelford recommends these steps:

  1. Wet your hands and apply soap.
  2. Rub your hands together to bring soap to a lather.
  3. Scrub all surfaces of hands, especially around and under fingernails and in between fingers.
  4. Keep scrubbing for 20 seconds, or as longs as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  5. Rinse hands under water until soap is gone.
  6. Use a clean towel or a hand dryer to dry hands.

What about hand sanitizer?

While it’s not a bad idea to send your child to school with a travel hand sanitizer in their backpacks, make sure they know that hand sanitizer is not a replacement for soap and water, as it does not eliminate all types of germs or remove harmful chemicals. However, hand sanitizer is a good alternative in situations where soap and water aren’t available. Make sure to buy an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol for the most effective removal of germs.