The places where children play – whether it’s at the local park or the neighbourhood daycare – tend to be crawling with germs. That’s because children have not yet figured out how to prevent spreading germs. Most adults cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze. Young kids? Not so much. And what about thoroughly washing their hands after going to the bathroom? Don’t bet on it.

Basically, wherever you find children, you can expect to find fecal coliforms and other germs and pathogens that can potentially cause diseases such as Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella Pneumoniae, Streptococcus and E. coli. Which explains why good hand hygiene is the first line of defence against the spread of these serious diseases.

Did you know?

Daycares typically have more germs than parks or playgrounds. Germs tend to avoid the sun because it lowers their life expectancy and therefore their population counts.

Why is hand washing so important?

It’s impossible to avoid coming into contact with microbes. But by regularly washing your hands, you can reduce the risk of passing these germs on to others. Children don’t realize that eating a sandwich with dirty fingers or nails can actually be harmful to their health. It’s up to us adults to teach them!

How to properly wash your hands

First wet your hands, add soap and scrub them for at least 20 seconds – the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.” Be sure to scrub in all the nooks and crannies – between the fingers, over the entire palm and the back of hands and under the nails – to remove as many germs as possible. Ideally, use liquid or foam soap (just one pump is all you need). Then rinse your hands thoroughly with clean water and dry them with a paper towel.

Washing your hands with soap and water can reduce the risk of diarrhea in children under 5 years of age by 50% and the risk of respiratory infections by 25%.

Hand washing tips

Help children wash their hands to make sure they do a good job. When children clean their hands on their own, they tend to quickly scrub and rinse them under the pouring water, which doesn’t give the soap enough time to actually clean.

Encourage childen to use soap and water to wash their hands. Hand sanitizer is good in a pinch, but it’s best for occasional use, such as during outings. Sanitizer will kill the germs, but it won’t remove the dirt. It can also be toxic if swallowed, so always keep sanitizer out of children’s reach.

Set a good example. Adopt good hand hygiene at home: Wash your hands properly and often, such as before meals, after using the toilet, etc. And make hand washing fun. Sing a nursery rhyme with your child while washing your hands for 20 seconds.

Start teaching good hand hygiene from a young age. If you make good hand hygiene a part of your child’s daily routine from a young age, it will become a life-long habit. Also teach children to cough into their elbow and to use a tissue whenever they cough or sneeze.