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Handwashing Tips to Prevent Cold and Flu

Back-to-school means hello germs.  Mighty Mommy shares some quick and easy tips on hand washing to keep cold and flu viruses away from your family.

By
Cheryl Butler

Most families have been back-to-school for a month now.  Predictably, 3 of my 8 kids have already succumbed to nasty colds.  Germs are plentiful in school and classroom environments, but there are some measures you can take to help prevent them. Here are some tips that Mighty Mommy uses in her own household:

Clean Hands = Fewer Germs

As you touch people, surfaces and objects throughout the day, you accumulate germs on your hands. In turn, you can infect yourself with these germs by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Although it's impossible to keep your hands germ-free, washing your hands frequently can help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other microbes.

Always wash your hands before:

  • Preparing food or eating
  • Treating wounds, giving medicine, or caring for a sick or injured person
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses

Always wash your hands after:

  • Preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry
  • Using the toilet or changing a diaper
  • Touching an animal or animal toys, leashes, or waste
  • Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands
  • Treating wounds or caring for a sick or injured person
  • Handling garbage, household or garden chemicals, or anything that could be contaminated — such as a cleaning cloth or soiled shoes

In addition, wash your hands whenever they look or feel dirty. House Call Doctor has more tips on how to prevent the spread of flu in kids.

How to Wash Your Hands

It's generally best to wash your hands with antibacterial soap and water. Follow these simple steps:

  • Wet your hands with running water.
  • Apply liquid, bar, or powder soap.
  • Lather well.
  • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers, and under your fingernails.  
  • Rinse well.
  • Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer.
  • If possible, use your towel to turn off the faucet.

Kids Need Clean Hands, Too

Help children stay healthy by encouraging them to wash their hands properly and frequently. Wash your hands with your child to show him or her how it's done. To prevent rushing, in our house we wash hands for as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. 

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are OK for children and adolescents, too, especially when soap and water aren't available. Remind your child to make sure the sanitizer completely dries before he or she touches anything. Store the container safely away after use.

Hand-washing is especially important for children in child care settings. Young children cared for in groups outside the home are at greater risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases, which can easily spread to family members. Be sure your child care provider promotes frequent hand-washing or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Ask whether the children are required to wash their hands several times a day — not just before meals. Note, too, whether diapering areas are cleaned after each use and whether eating and diapering areas are well separated.

Hand-washing doesn't take much time or effort, but it offers great rewards in terms of preventing illness. Adopting this simple habit can play a major role in protecting your health.

See also: Coworkers Who Don't wash Their Hands

 

Child washing hands and germs images courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!

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