As a surgical RN and as a mom, I have always been a stickler on proper handwashing! Just ask my family!
Good practice starts in the home. When young.
[Caveat. It is vital for our children to build resistance by playing outside where they can get DIRTY! Do NOT miss this important stage in building immune strength! Children have what we call “nature-deficit disorder.” And yes, they should know how to clean up afterwards!]
Six seconds is the average length of time people spend washing their hands, according to research. But this is not long enough to effectively remove bacteria.
I want to encourage all parents to teach their children handwashing from a young age!
The most important part of hand washing is using soap, according to Dr Curtis, an expert in hygiene and public health in London. ‘As long as you use soap, it’s quite hard to wash your hands badly. It’s sticky, so you have to wash it off – taking the bacteria with it.’
‘Soap doesn’t kill bacteria, it gets rid of them,’ she says. ‘This is because one end of the soap molecule attaches to water while the other end attaches to dirt (which is where the bacteria will be).
‘So, as you rinse your soap-covered hands, the water strips off the soap, taking the dirt with it.’
And more visual yet is my friend Jaralee Annice Metcalf‘s handwashing experiment with her students to show why it is so important, I was thrilled because the results were disgusting!
What a great teachable moment it made!
Handwashing Really Does Matter
The experiment photos below are so visual and gross you will probably be able to get your kids’ attention with them. And this would be a great home experiment to illuminate just how many germs we carry around on our hands and devices!
When I asked Jaralee if I could share her handwashing experiment photos here on the blog, she agreed.
Jaralee, a behavioral specialist, writes:
We did a science project in class this last month as flu season was starting.
We took fresh bread and touched it.
- We did one slice untouched.
- One with unwashed hands.
- One with hand sanitizer.
- One with washed hands with warm water and soap.
- Then we decided to rub a piece on all our classroom Chromebooks.
As a behavioral specialist in a classroom setting who is sick and tired of being sick and tired, I say, “Wash your hands! Remind your kids to wash their hands!
And hand sanitizer is not an alternative to handwashing! Not at all!”
Here are the details we observed:
- All the students touched each piece (except the control piece)
- Results took 3-4 weeks because of preservatives
- It was plain white bread
- The control piece wasn’t ever touched with naked hands, and it was moved immediately from the bread bag to the ziplock baggie. (every piece is from the same loaf on same day)
- We used freezer ziplock bags meant for raw meat and they’re sealed tight
We do sanitize our laptops and devices, as well.
We used just plain soap for handwashing. Not antibacterial!
We know now that triclosan in antibacterial soaps can increase bacterial resistance to antibiotics.
Follow Five Steps to Wash Your Hands the Right Way
Washing your hands is easy, and it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community—from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.
Follow these five steps every time (source):
- 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. 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 then turn off the water with a paper towel not touching the faucet handle!
- Open any doors using a dry paper towel. A wet paper towel will wick germs to your hands!
Wash Your Hands Often to Stay Healthy
You can help yourself and your loved ones stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- 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
So whether it’s cold and flu season or not, start young to teach your children to wash their hands! It starts with us modeling it.
Forget hand sanitizer – It’s not a good alternative to simple handwashing! Triclosan in antibacterial soap increases bacterial resistance to antibiotics.