UPDATED: Oct 19, 2019
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Germs are everywhere and on everything that we see and touch. The can also spread extremely easily, so no matter what you touch, you are contributing to the spread of germs that can potentially make you sick. In fact, many people do not think about it, but when they go to the bathroom and forget to wash their hands in their hurry out the door, they are spreading germs to everyone that they come into contact with.
Washing your hands is important to keep you and everyone around you healthy, and it only takes a few seconds to prevent sickness. Knowing the proper way to wash your hands and teaching your children about why handwashing is important can help to keep your family healthy during the cold and flu season and all year round.
Why Handwashing is Important
Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of infections. Illness-causing bacteria and germs are easily spread in contaminated environments, like schools, doctor’s offices, and bathrooms, especially when people are not properly washing their hands. Just think about how many things you touch in a day. Every time you touch something, you are not only picking up germs, but also spreading them as well. This can make you sick, and you can also transmit this sickness to others.
Germs are invisible, but just because you cannot see the germs does not mean that they are not there. Washing your hands is the first line of defense when it comes to preventing the spread of pathogenic organisms. Simply washing your hands with soap and warm water can prevent common illnesses, such as colds and flu. These illnesses can certainly wreak havoc on our bodies, especially with children, but washing your hands can make all the difference in the world and can promote good health, as well.
- Rady Children’s Hospital: Why is handwashing so important?
- Pkids: Infection protection
- Alabama Public Health: Do 10 fight the flu
How to Properly Wash Your Hands
If you did not know it already, there is a proper way to wash hands in order to prevent the spread of disease. To properly wash your hands, there are steps that need to be followed. Teach your family to follow these steps to ensure everyone’s hands are clean and germ-free:
- Wet your hands with running water. The water can be hot or cold. At this time, the temperature is not important like it will be later on.
- Squirt some liquid hand soap onto your hands. Avoid using bar soap, as you have to rub your germs all over it and pick up germs from whoever else used it before you. Make sure the soap you are using is anti-bacterial as well.
- Lather the soap onto your hands well, ensuring you get between your fingers and under your fingernails, as well. Wash your wrists, too. Make sure that you rub your palms together vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Many people hum a tune to make sure they have hand scrubbed for long enough.
- Rinse your hands under hot water and dry them under a blow dryer or with a single-use paper towel.
- Use the towel to turn off the faucet so that you do not dirty your clean hands again.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: When and how to wash your hands
- Global Handwashing Partnership: About handwashing
When to Wash Your Hands
Knowing when to wash your hands is something that requires simple common sense. If hands are visibly dirty, obviously you are going to want to wash them so that they are clean again. Of course, there are other times when hands should also be washed, even if they do not appear to be dirty.
Be sure to encourage children to wash their hands each and every time they use the bathroom so that it becomes a part of their lifelong routine. In addition, the same handwashing rules should be applied before eating. You will want to always be sure that all family members are as germ-free as possible before you sit down to eat a meal.
If you work in a restaurant or another place where food is being cooked or served, you should wash your hands frequently, as well. If you are someone that works in a healthcare facility, it is always important to wash your hands frequently and before you do anything with a patient. Never go patient to patient without washing your hands.
Basically, any time is a great time for handwashing!
- Wisconsin Department of Health Services: Why is handwashing important?
- Central Connecticut Health District: The health benefits of handwashing
- Harvard Health: Wash your hands
Handwashing Tips for Kids
While handwashing may not seem like it is fun for kids, it can be! You can make handwashing fun for your children by providing them with colorful soaps or ones that smell good to them. Some kids also really like the foaming anti-bacterial soaps. Teaching kids how long they should wash their hands is easy, as well. You can teach them a song that goes like this: “Happy birthday to you. Your hands are a zoo. If you sing this while you wash them, they'll be cleaner times two.” Singing this song two times will take them enough time that their hands will be thoroughly clean when they are through.
If your kids still are not sure, you can get a timer and put it in the bathroom. Tell them to wash their hands until the buzzer goes off and then the germs will be gone. You will also want to teach children to use single-use paper towels instead of a reusable hand towel.
- University of Utah: Make handwashing fun for kids
- Monroe Carrel Jr. Children’s Hospital: For kids
- Seattle Children’s Hospital: Handwashing
Handwashing and Hygiene Resources for Parents
There are many excellent resources out there for parents who want to teach their children good handwashing and hygiene practices, The following resources have expert advice that can help make it easier to explain germs and why they are dangerous, as well as the importance of good hygiene skills.
- Minnesota Department of Health: Five common ways germs are spread
- Penn State: The importance of handwashing for kids
If you would like more in-depth information, look into the information provided by
Stonybrook University Hospital: What you need to know about handwashing. If you are interested in the effectiveness of hand sanitizer when handwashing is not possible, then Michigan State University is a great source of information: Just how effective is hand sanitizer?
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