​Children are active by nature, and their hands tend to pick up germs when they move around and touch various surfaces. They then use these same dirty hands to touch their faces, rub their eyes or place the fingers in their mouth. This makes them vulnerable to infections such as diarrhoea, acute respiratory diseases and Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD).

Poor hand washing habits claim many young lives worldwide

Each year around 760,000 children under the age of five die from diarrhoeal diseases due to poor hygiene and lack of access to proper sanitation.1 These diseases can be prevented.

Hand washing is one simple solution that children can learn to protect themselves against infectious diseases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hygiene education and the promotion of hand washing can reduce diarrhoeal cases by up to 45%. When children wash their hands – usually the first line of defence against the spread of many diseases – the rate of infection is reduced significantly.

1. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs330/en

​Chase the germs away with soap and water

Getting children to learn and practise proper hand washing techniques may not be easy at first. However, explaining the reasons for it can help them understand and pick up the habit.

As a parent or caregiver, you can make this fun. For instance, you can add in a hand washing quiz, or a game that perhaps rewards your child for their efforts. This helps them to remember the various steps in proper hand washing.

Clean hands are for mum and dad as well

Cultivating this good habit is not limited to children. Parents and caregivers should also wash their hands as they could pass the germs on to their children. The 2005 World Health Report mentions that households can prevent illness by washing hands after using the washroom, before preparing meals and before feeding children.

Keeping hands clean is a form of social responsibility to reduce the risk of infection. The simple act of washing hands with soap and water can prevent infections and save lives.

When to wash your hands

Some important moments for hand washing include:

Before and after:
  • Handling or preparing food.
  • Eating.
  • Caring for someone who is sick.
  • Feeding a child.
  • Treating a cut.
  • Giving medicine.
  • Using the washroom.
  • Wiping or blowing one’s nose.
  • Coughing or sneezing.
  • Changing diapers.
  • Touching common surfaces such as lift buttons, door knobs, handles, table tops.
  • Touching rubbish or something dirty.
  • Playing with or touching pets.

Don’t get caught dirty-handed; lead by example

What you do, your child sees and follows. So set a good example with good personal hygiene habits. Washing hands properly and thoroughly is one of them.

Apart from hand washing, leading a healthy lifestyle is equally important. For both young and old, a healthy diet and regular exercise can strengthen one’s immune system against illnesses.

Useful hand washing activity:

Parents and caregivers can use the Washy Washy Clean song to teach children the correct technique of washing hands the fun way. In fact, the duration of the song serves as a guide to demonstrate the proper steps​ of the hand washing process.

Remember, washing hands with soap and water for 30 seconds reduces the germ count by up to 99%.