Hand Washing Our Best Defense

Common infections such as the flu and the common cold are caused by germs called viruses which spread very easily, especially in preschool and school-age children. Germs can spread from person to person by:

  • Direct “hand-to-hand” contact or touch
  • Indirect contact; for example if children touch an infected surface like a toy or a door handle and then put their hand to their own eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Virus droplets being passed through the air for example, from coughing or sneezing

Despite all of the amazing medical discoveries and advances like vaccines, sanitation and antibiotics, one very simple technique still remains one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. That’s right, hand washing.  Countless studies have shown that hand washing is a highly effective way of preventing the spread of bacteria and viruses. So I thought I would once again review the proper way to wash your hands:

  • Wet your hands with warm running water.
  • Apply liquid or foam soap.  Do not use bar soap.
  • Rub the soap vigorously into lather over all surfaces of your hands.
  • Continue washing for at 15 to 20 seconds in order to remove germs.(about the length of the song “Happy Birthday”).
  • Pay special attention to your fingertips, the area under your nails, between your fingers, on the back of your hands and the base of your thumbs.
  • After 15-20 seconds of cleaning, rinse your hands well under warm running water
  • Dry your hands well with a paper towel. Pat them dry, instead of rubbing them, to help prevent chapping.
  • Turn off the water tap using the paper towel and then throw it into the garbage.

Get into the habit of washing your hands before and after preparing, handling, serving or eating food, after any contact with anyone who has an infection, and of course after going to the bathroom.

It is quite important to teach your children at an early age too. Children often carry and spread infections so it would be important that they learn to wash their hands as early on as possible. Before they can wash their hands on their own, parents should wash their hands for them.

Since I am on the subject of infection prevention, here are a few other tips parents and child caregivers should know:

  • Children should be taught to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Facial tissues should be used for runny noses and to catch sneezes. These should be immediately put into the garbage after each use.
  • Avoid kissing your child on or around the mouth or face.
  • Parents and other caregivers should always wash their hands after changing a baby’s diaper.

One final thought, did you know that a fair number of people use their mobile devices in the bathroom? This too can spread germs, so remember to disinfect it…Better yet,  do not use it in the bathroom. The device manufacturer can provide details on how to clean/disinfect your particular device.

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Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.