In addition to having your whole family get flu shots, there’s another easy and effective way to keep the flu at bay: hand-washing.
Welcome to the heart of flu season. Over the next several months up to 60 million of us will be sick 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.
“Hand-washing is key to protecting ourselves from illnesses such as flu and other viruses, including COVID-19,” said Maria T. Bowling, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group – Windy Hills. “Kids frequently touch their face — eyes, nose and mouth — so teaching and enforcing hand-washing at key moments can do a lot to keep the whole family healthy.”
Good hand hygiene starts with parents, according to Dr. Bowling. 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.
“Wash your hands at any point when you think you may have come in contact with germs,” she said. “After entering your home after being in a public place, after using the restroom and before you prepare or eat food are all times that should trigger hand-washing. When it’s automatic for you and your child sees you practicing good hand hygiene, the child will follow by example.”
Get a flu shot at your pediatrician’s office
Here are some tips and tricks to help kids learn to love to wash their hands:
- Make it fun! Let your child pick out his or her favorite kind of soap. Sing a song while you lather up! If you have a smart speaker, have it play a hand-washing song that can help you wash your hands for the right amount of time.
- 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 reach the sink comfortably. 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 and decorate the poster together with your child, creating 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.