Welcome to the heart of flu season. Over the next several months up to 60 million of us will be laid up for days with headaches, fever, diarrhea, chills and muscle aches that all come courtesy of that nasty virus. And if you have kids, the chance of the bug coming into your home is much higher.
In addition to having your whole family vaccinated, there’s another easy and effective way to keep the flu at bay: hand washing.
Sounds simple, right? Apparently not. According to the American Society of Microbiology, only half of middle and high school students say they wash their hands after using the restroom. That means most are bringing home millions of germs and infecting every surface of your house, leaving you and everyone else at risk.
“Unfortunately, the flu often is easier to catch than it is to convey the importance of hand washing — especially among children,” said Jenita Lyons with Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness. “Many feel they don’t need to wash their hands unless they visibly see that their hands are dirty. Kids also frequently touch their face — eyes, nose and mouth — easy entryways for germs.”
Good hand hygiene starts with parents, according to Lyons. Washing hands with children is one of the best ways to help instill good hand-washing habits that they’ll use for the rest of their lives.
“Whenever you think you may have come in contact with germs, wash your hands,” she said. “After you enter your home, after you use the restroom, before you prepare or eat food, wash your hands. And when your child sees you practicing good hand hygiene, he or she will follow by example.”
Here are some tips and tricks to help kids learn to love to lather:
- Make it fun! Let your child pick out his or her favorite kind of soap. Sing a song while you lather up!
- Get in the habit of washing your hands together after returning home. Steady routines help habits form.
- Make sure your child has a stool to comfortably reach the sink. Hand-washing should not seem like a chore.
- Practice proper hand washing. Make sure your kids are scrubbing for 20 seconds, scrubbing the palm, back of the hands, wrists, thumbs and underneath fingernails. Make lots of bubbles before rinsing!
- Hang a poster in the bathroom that shows step-by-step instructions on proper hand-washing. Make the poster with your child and help him or her decorate it. It will be a fun reminder of the healthy habit.
What about hand sanitizer?
Alcohol-based sanitizing gel is a good substitute when soap and water are not available. But do not solely rely on it.
“Sanitizers don’t wash away the skin’s natural oil layer, which can trap bacteria underneath,” Lyons said.
Click here for a quick video on how to teach your kids proper hand washing.
Attention teachers: Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness can visit your classroom and demonstrate proper hand washing with our GloGerm kit! Your students will get to see what “pretend” germs look like under a black light and practice washing all the germs away. Call (502) 629-7358 to learn more.