Before playing pat-a-cake, learn the facts of hand hygiene

Hand washing is a simple way to prevent infection.Washing your hands seems so simple. Yet many of us can use a refresher in this basic skill – especially when we are responsible for our children’s hand hygiene.

Why wash hands?

It is a simple and effective way to prevent the spread of infection, such as the recent outbreak of mumps in the Columbus area. Avoiding infection is particularly important for people visiting patients in the hospital and for parents who don’t want their children to “catch” the flu or common cold, which are both spread by viruses.

According to the CDC, hand washing can lessen the risk of food-borne illness, reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16 percent, and cut diarrheal disease-related deaths by up to 50 percent.

A London-based research study indicated that a million deaths could be prevented annually if everyone washed their hands regularly. Another study of 6,000 American students showed that the use of alcohol gel hand sanitizers in classrooms cut absenteeism due to infection by nearly 20 percent.

Hand-hygieneHand hygiene is a good habit to teach children, especially once they start school, where germs are easily spread. Your child should know to wash their hands:

  • Before handling food
  • After using the toilet
  • Before and after visiting someone in the hospital
  • After blowing his nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, dirt or garbage

You should wash your hands at the above times, as well as:

  • Before and after preparing food
  • Before and after treating a cut or caring for someone who is ill
  • After changing diapers or assisting a child with using the toilet

Teach your child the following 5 steps for proper hand washing.

  1. Get wet. Using clean, running water, get hands dripping wet.
  2. Soap up. Rub hands together with soap to work up a good lather – paying attention to the back of the hands, in between fingers and under nails.
  3. Scrub-a-dub. Clean hands for at least 20 seconds, which is about the time it takes to sing or hum “Happy Birthday” twice.
  4. Really rinse. Place hands under clean, running water to rinse well.
  5. Towel off.  Use a clean towel to dry hands – or air-dry them.

If soap and clean, running water are unavailable, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Although hand sanitizers can effectively reduce the number of germs on your hands, they don’t eliminate all types of microbes. For this reason, they should be used only when hand washing is impractical.

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About Dr. David Chand - Pediatric Hospitalist

Dr. David Chand is a pediatric hospitalist and Lean Six Sigma deployment leader at Akron Children's Hospital. He has a special interest in eliminating waste in healthcare and uses Lean Six Sigma principles to improve patient care and efficiency.

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