​Children are active by nature, as such their hands tend to pick up germs while they are moving around and touching various surfaces. When they use the same dirty hands to touch their face, rub their eyes or place the fingers in their mouth, there is a risk of germs entering the body, which can lead to infections such as diarrhoea, acute respiratory diseases and hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD).

Poor hand washing habits claim many lives of children worldwide

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.

Chase the germs away with soap and water

Getting children to wash their hands thoroughly may not be easy at first, but once they learn the proper hand washing techniques and understand the reason behind it, they will pick up this habit in no time.

It is important to instill a sense of fun when teaching children how to keep their hands clean. For instance, parents and caregivers can add in a hand washing quiz or game that kids can participate actively and perhaps be rewarded at the end for their efforts. This helps them to remember the various steps in hand washing.

Clean hands are for mum and dad as well

Cultivating the good habit of hand washing is not only limited to children, parents and caregivers should also wash their hands as they can pass the germs to their children. The 2005 World Health Report mentions that households can prevent illness by washing hands after defecation, before preparing meals and before feeding children.

Keeping hands clean is a form of social responsibility that helps in reducing the risk of infections. The simple act of washing hands with soap and water can save many lives.

When to wash hands

Some important moments for hand washing include:

Before and after
  • ​Handling or preparing food
  • Meals
  • Caring for someone who is sick
  • Eating or 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

Children tend to look up to parents and caregivers as their role models and follow by example. So parents and caregivers should set a good example by demonstrating good personal hygiene habits. Washing hands properly and thoroughly is one of them.

Apart from hand washing, leading a healthy lifestyle is equally important. Through a healthy diet and regular exercise, one's immune system is strengthened against illnesses. This applies to both the young and the old.

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. The duration of the song serves as a timer to demonstrate the hand washing process. All it takes is at least 20 seconds. 
Remember: Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds reduces germ count by up to 99%.​

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