Do you feel like your kids are constantly coming home with something? Its bad enough that they are sick, but bringing it home and passing it on to the rest of the family.... NO FUN! You might be quick to pop them some pills, but the most overlooked activity for keeping germs at bay in your daily life is hand washing. Just look at the statistics below, where do you stand?
The Key to Your Child’s Health is in the Hands. Or, Washing Them.
Bad jokes apart, this post highlights the importance of hand washing, which is an essential yet neglected chore of the day.
Did you know?
- Your hands are the home of around 2-10 million bacteria.
- Around the world, roughly 80 thousand people die every year due to diseases spread by these bacteria.
- Five types of disease-causing infections can be prevented just by washing your hands several times a day.
- One-fifth of respiratory problems that you face are handmade. (No pun intended)
- About 80% of infectious diseases get transmitted through your hands alone.
Based on these medically proven facts, you can see the importance of hand washing in preventing various diseases such as common cold, influenza, chicken pox, meningitis, and many others.
The germs on your hands can stay alive for more than 3 hours. So it is important to wash your hands thoroughly and keep them clean at all times.
And this is even more significant for children.
Hand Washing, a Healthy Habit for Kids
Based on The Journal of Infectious Diseases by author PB Price, there are two types of germs residing in your hands, namely resident micro-organisms and transient micro-organisms. Resident micro-organisms do not cause diseases in healthy individuals. But the transient micro-organisms, which include certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi, are the real bad boys. They exchange directly through skin-to-skin contact, or indirectly via contaminated objects. Proper hand washing deactivates these transient micro-organisms.
And this is one of the important hygiene lessons for kids which you need to impart.
Despite how good a parent you are, you can never know where your child’s hands have been. Children being children, they touch and grab onto everything that they see. And then their hands reach for their mouth somewhere in-between. Horrible, isn’t it?
Children are more susceptible to getting sick partly because of this. And what’s worse, they have an underdeveloped, inexperienced immune system that isn't a big help.
Two major diseases that transmit through the hands are Pneumonia and Diarrhea. As per UNICEF, these two illnesses together cause more than 3·5 million child deaths before the age of five.
How Hand washing Impacts your Child’s Health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a related study in 2003. They studied two groups of children, one that was given adequate hand washing exposure, and another which was not.
The same groups of children were followed up twice, once after 9 months and again after 6 years. The findings were both shocking as well as inspiring. They found:
- Children with proper hand hygiene experienced less than half cases of diarrhea during the first 2.5 years of their lives, a critical time in their development
- They reached developmental milestones 6 months earlier than otherwise expected.
- Health aspects such as better nutrition intake and more energy availability were noticed.
- They had a better attendance record at school.
- They scored better in five particular areas of development, namely
- Cognitive, i.e. intellectual growth
- Bodily movements
- Personal-social abilities
This scientific study essentially suggests; one of the best things you could do to save your child from falling sick all the time, as well as have the best chance at their physical-mental growth, is teaching personal hygiene to your children. The importance of hand washing could be a great lesson to start with.
Consider equipping your child with the below hand washing checklist and procedure.
When should you wash your hands?
Although it is best to keep your hands clean at all times, however at some particular times it is really important to wash them. Such as-
- After using a restroom
- After visiting a hospital
- Before and after meals
- After playing with pets.
- After coughing or sneezing
- After playing with toys, or outdoors
- After throwing garbage
- After cleaning something (for parents)
- Before cooking the food (for parents)
How to Wash Hands Properly
Washing hands does not mean just splashing water on your palms, yet most people do exactly that. If you care about washing your hands properly, here is a standard hand washing procedure.
To properly wash your hands, you will require water and a bar of soap.
- Wet your hands with water and then use soap to lather them. Rub thoroughly on both sides of your hands, between fingers, and underneath your nails. Do this for approximately 20 seconds and then rinse your hands with water.
- In the absence of soap, you can use hand-sanitizers or antimicrobial wipes. Just use a drop of hand-sanitizer and rub it all over your palm until it vaporizes.
The Importance of Developing Healthy Habits from a Young Age
According to research conducted by Harris interactive in 2007, around a third of females and two-thirds of males leave the restroom without washing their hands.
Thing is, once you become older and get habituated to something, it becomes very difficult to leave your old habits, however bad they are.
So it is really important to teach the healthy habits for kids, right from a young age. This is especially true regarding health and hygiene for children. So if you are teaching personal hygiene to children, it is wise to start early. The earlier we inculcate these habits, the more likely these habits will stick for a long time to come.
As a parent, you can make a list of healthy habits for kids to start with. Then keep it in the form of a ‘good habits chart’ in your kid’s room. Use your kid's developmental years and demonstrate them the important habits they should develop. Don't wait for the time when you think that your kid can understand what you're saying — they likely process and comprehend more things than you know.
Take hand washing for example. It's a simple habit you can show at an early stage. Reinforce the importance of hands washing in them each time you are washing your own. Sing a tune together while at it, to ensure adequate washing time and habit forming. This makes it fun and enables your child to relate sentiments of joy and inspiration with hand washing.
At the point when your kid gets used to hand washing, you can begin clarifying when they should wash hands, for example, before eating, after playing, etc.
Breaking Bad Habits is Much Harder than Developing Healthy Habits in Kids
Habits are hardwired behaviors which we perform subconsciously, and so they are hard to break. That's why it is essential for your kids to start forming good habits from a younger age.
Eating healthy food, maintaining personal hygiene, being physically active, are a few generally healthy habits for kids. As a parent, you can also list your own.
And only you can help them shape those habits. Try to make it fun & simple and your child will grasp those habits fast.