Handwashing really is our best defense against many kinds of bacteria and viruses that cause infection. When children come into contact with germs, they can unknowingly become infected simply 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. Good handwashing is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses — from the common cold to more serious infections, such as meningitis, bronchiolitis, the flu, hepatitis A, and most types of infectious diarrhea.
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
Washing Hands Correctly
Here’s how to scrub those germs away. Teach this routine to your children — 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.
To minimize the germs passed around your family, make regular handwashing 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.)