Personal hygiene and proper handwashing steps can lower a child's risk of infection.
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 hands to touch their faces, rub their eyes or place their fingers in their mouth. This makes them vulnerable to infections such as diarrhoea, acute respiratory diseases and
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD).
Each year in developing countries, about 1.5 million children die from diarrhoeal diseases due to poor hygiene and lack of access to proper sanitation. 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 interventions including hygiene education and promotion of hand washing can lead to a reduction of diarrhoeal cases by up to 45%. By getting children to wash their hands, which is usually the first line of defence against the spread of many diseases, the rate of infection is reduced significantly.
Keeping Germs Away with Soap and Water
Getting children to learn and practise proper handwashing 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 handwashing quiz or a game that rewards your child for their efforts. This helps them to remember the various steps in proper handwashing.
Proper hand washing means washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. The constant rubbing action helps soap break down the grease and dirt that carry most germs. This way, your hands don't just smell fresh, but you will also reduce the germ count on your hands by up to 99%.
Follow these 8 steps to clean hands:
Or Try Your Hand at Sanitisers
When travelling overseas or going to places where clean water and soap may not be easily available, try using hand sanitisers for an added hygiene boost. The most common hand sanitisers are alcohol-based.
How to use alcohol-based hand sanitisers
Good Hygiene Also Applies to Parents and Caregivers
Cultivating this good habit of handwashing 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.
Some important moments for handwashing include:
Before and after:
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.
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 handwashing process.
Remember, washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds reduces the germ count by up to 99%.
Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides to give your baby a healthy start.
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This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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