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little girl washing hands

Properly washing hands is the single most important step to preventing the spread of germs. Children are especially at risk of spreading germs and contracting illnesses from others since they often come in close contact during school or while playing. Teaching your children the most effective techniques to wash their hands is an important lesson and it will instill good hygiene habits in general.



The five steps to proper hand washing techniques

Now that we know that proper methods of washing hands help immensely to prevent illness, let's learn more about what this process involves. There are five simple and effective steps to follow (Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry) particularly before and after certain activities. The key activities at risk for contamination and the spreading of bacteria are using the bathroom and eating. Therefore, these are the two most important times to follow these steps to prevent illness. There are several other activities besides eating and using the restroom which require proper hygiene, such as:
* Before and after treating a cut or wound
* After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
* After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
* After handling pet food or pet treats
* After touching garbage

Simply applying soap and lathering isn’t sufficient though. There are specific steps, as well as a certain amount of time that must be spent during this specific process to properly kill germs:
* Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
* Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
* Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
* Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
* Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Hand sanitizers

Sometimes there may be a need to wash hands when there is no access to soap and water. One example would be during outdoor activities such as camping or picnics. A good alternative to hand washing is a quality hand sanitizer. The CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to thoroughly clean hands. Hand sanitizers are not as effective as soap and water when hands are visibly dirty or oily but they will effectively kill germs that exist on the skin.

The proper way to use sanitizers:
* Apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
* Rub your hands together.
* Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.
It’s important to remember that sanitizers are toxic so keep these products out of the reach of small children. Make sure to read the label on these products to learn about any other precautions you should take when using them.

Following these basic techniques on a regular basis will help to form good hygiene habits for your children and will go a long way in the prevention of the spread of germs which could lead to anything from a cold to more serious bacterial infections such as E-Coli.

Even with all these precautions, your child can still be subjected to a variety of illnesses as germs are spread in other ways, such as airborne or environmental contamination. If you suspect your child is ill and needs a checkup do not hesitate to contact the office of Glen Allen Pediatrics to schedule a visit with one of our physicians.