Friday, September 11, 2015

Wash Away Those Back-to-School Germs

By Kateri Wimsett, Education and Outreach Specialist

September is here once again back to school time here in the South Sound. Kids and parents are adjusting to new schedules and new teachers. As kids go back to school they share close contact with other kids and teachers all day, five days a week. That means they are exposed to lots and lots of germs and can bring illnesses home with them. So right now is the perfect time to talk to your kids about effective handwashing. Handwashing has been called the single most effective way to keep from getting sick. This would depend on how well hands are actually washed.

As a mom of two, the main focus of my efforts is to cease the “rinse and run” my children are inclined to do. They often resort to “washing their hands” by running their soap-less hands quickly under water while running for the door. Because of this I’ve instituted the happy birthday song rule - after soaping they’ve got to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while scrubbing their hands. We’ve talked about how it’s the rubbing and scrubbing of your hands that actually is the most important step to get the germs off of your hands. I’m happy to report that as they’ve gotten older they appreciate the grossness of not washing their hands and are coming along in their efforts. 

A note about hand sanitizer, washing hands with soap and water really is better and advised.  If you are in a place where soap and water are not available and you have to use hand sanitizer use an alcohol based one with at least 60% alcohol (check the label).  Hand sanitizers do not eliminate all type of germs, nor do they remove the chemicals that may be on our hands .  They also are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. 

It sounds kind of silly, but learning when and how to properly wash hands and making it a habit is important.  Remind your kids to always wash their hands:
  • After they use the bathroom.
  • Before they eat.
  • After touching animals or animal poop.
  • When they come into contact with someone who is sick.
  • When they come in from being outside.
  • When their hands are dirty.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the “right way to wash your hands” includes:
  • Wetting your hands with clean running water and using soap. There is no need to use antibacterial soap. Regular bar or liquid soap works best.
  • Rub hands together, lathering or scrubbing for 20 seconds. Make sure to scrub between fingers, the backs of your hands, and under your nails. (As a side note it takes about 20 second for the scrubbing action to dislodge and remove germs.)
  • Rinse your hands under clean running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Interested in the science behind this? Check out the CDC's "Show Me the Science-- How to Wash your Hands" web page.

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