Kids don’t always listen when parents tell them to wash their hands before eating, after using the bathroom, or when they come inside from playing. But it’s a message worth repeating — hand washing is by far the best way to keep kids from getting sick and prevent the spread of germs.
How Do Germs Spread?
Germs can spread many ways, including:
touching dirty hands
changing dirty diapers
through contaminated water and food
through droplets in the air released during a cough or sneeze
on contaminated surfaces
through contact with a sick person’s body fluids
When kids come into contact with germs, they can become infected just by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth. And once they’re infected, it’s usually just a matter of time before the whole family comes down with the same illness.
How Do Clean Hands Help Health?
Good hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses — from the flu and common cold to infections, such as meningitis, bronchiolitis, hepatitis A, and many types of diarrhea.
What’s the Best Way to Wash Hands?
Here’s how to scrub those germs away. Teach this to your kids — or better yet, wash your hands together often so they learn how important this good habit is:
Wash your hands in warm water. Make sure the water isn’t too hot for little hands.
Use soap and lather up for about 20 seconds (antibacterial soap isn’t necessary — any soap will do).
Make sure you get in between the fingers and under the nails where germs like to hang out. And don’t forget the wrists!
Rinse and dry well with a clean towel.
When Should Kids Wash Their Hands?
To stop the spread of germs in your family, make regular hand washing a rule for everyone, especially:
before eating and cooking
after using the bathroom
after cleaning around the house
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
after being outside (playing, gardening, walking the dog, etc.)
Don’t underestimate the power of hand washing! The few seconds you spend at the sink can save you from days and days of sickness.