How Handwashing Can Help Prevent Illness

Germs are everywhere, a reality that we unfortunately cannot avoid. They collect on our hands, but there’s definitely steps we can take to help stop them from spreading. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number one step that you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others is washing your hands. They say that handwashing education can significantly reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea and respiratory illnesses. Also, this means less time spent at the doctor’s office and more time healthy, at work and at school. If you head over to their website, the CDC has a helpful handwashing video demonstration. This provides four simple steps for proper handwashing for your child:

  1. Wet the child’s hands
  2. Apply soap to the hands
  3. Rub the hand’s together and scrub every surface for 10-15 seconds
  4. Rinse and dry hands

As parents, it’s important to help your child develop (and practice) good habits. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you “encourage your child to wash his or her hands throughout the day.” Appropriate times include before eating and snack time and after going to the bathroom, touching an animal, playing outside or sneezing and coughing. Also, you should up the frequency of handwashing whenever someone in the house is sick. Get your child into the habit of washing their hands at home, in public bathrooms, at other’s homes and at school. To help make sure they wash their hands for the full 15 seconds, the AAP gives a neat tip – pick a song and have them sing it while they wash!

When it comes to choosing soap versus hand sanitizer, the CDC says that no matter what, soap and water is always best. However, if they are not available, then use a hand sanitizer that is alcohol-based (with at least 60% alcohol). The AAP says that the best kinds of soaps to use to kill off germs are soaps such as triclosan that do not contain antibacterial substances, as they can kill of good bacteria, too.  The CDC adds that there are no added benefits to using soaps with antibacterial ingredients versus plain soaps.

If you have any questions or would like additional recommendations, it is always best to talk with your pediatrician or trusted healthcare provider.

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