There has been a big push to get a flu vaccine lately. People seem terrified of getting sick, yet the simplest method of preventing illness is often ignored. Washing your hands correctly and frequently may prove more beneficial, and is certainly less invasive than pharmaceuticals that may cause long-term health risks.
How Illness Spreads
Colds and Flu viruses are spread through droplet transmission. When someone who is ill coughs or sneezes, small droplets carrying the virus move through the air. A healthy person may breathe in a contaminated droplet, or touch a surface where the droplet landed even hours before. Then, if the healthy person touches his eyes, nose or mouth, he “plants” the virus where it can multiply and spread.
Only Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
How To Teach Your Child to Wash Hands
Here’s a fun activity you can do with your child as you teach him about hand washing.
1. Pour a little vegetable oil on your hands and his hands. Smoosh this all over and around, between the fingers, over the backs, into the knuckles. (As an added benefit, once this activity is over, your hands may feel extra soft!). Talk to him about dirt, and pretend that the vegetable oil – which is not harmful – is the dirt we get on our hands. Shake a tiny bit of cinnamon onto your hands. Talk to him about germs, bacteria and viruses, how they are teeny-tiny and invisible to our “naked” eye, unless we have a powerful magnifying glass. These tiny things are what can make us sick. Pretend that cinnamon specks are viruses. Now, try to wash them off with plain cold water. It doesn’t work very well, does it?
2. Add soap, and use warm water. Now wash hands – see how much better the vegetable oil and cinnamon disappears?
3. Explain that he should ALWAYS use soap and warm water to wash his hands.
4. Talk about WHEN he should wash his hands, ticking them off on his fingers. Review this with him often. He has five fingers, five times he should wash his hands. There are other times – like after visiting a sick friend, or changing a baby’s diapers, but I wanted to keep the list simple so your child can memorize it.
- * Before preparing or eating food.
- * After playing outside
- * After coughing, sneezing, or blowing his nose
- * After using the bathroom
- * After playing with a pet
5. Talk about HOW LONG he should wash his hands. Sing this little ditty I made up. Sing it through twice – that’s about how long you should take to wash your hands thoroughly, every time – or about twenty seconds. Sing it to the tune of “Happy Birthday to you!”
When you go to wash your hands
Use lots of soap and warm water
Rub them briskly together
And bad germs you will slaughter!
6. When soap and warm water are not available, you may consider using an alcohol-based sanitizer, but BE CAREFUL! Some children have been to the emergency room from hand-sanitizer poisoning. Snopes.com has collected the reports, deciding that this is “true” and not another urban legend. Keep hand sanitizer out of the reach of children, supervise them when using it, and never, ever let them lick their hands after using it! Hand sanitizer smells nice, and most kids will want to taste it. Weird for us grown ups, but kids learn about everything through their five senses. When they encounter something new, it is natural for them to want to see it, touch it, shake it, smell it, and stick it in their mouth.
Plain soap decreases the surface tension of water, and adheres to dirt, bacteria, viruses, oil, and the like. When you lather with soap, this all combines together easily and washes down the drain. Antibacterial soap does NOT do this job any better than regular soap. Germ-killing soaps are not the same as antibacterial soaps. Germ-killing soaps use bleach or other disinfectants to kill germs. They do not contain antibiotics, and do not contribute to the “super – bug” problem.
So, have fun this week teaching your child about healthy hands, and I hope you enjoy this cinnamony-scented hand lotion!