Did you know that according to the CDC, nearly 25% of us are walking around at any given time with fecal matter on our hands? That’s right! And if that sounds gross, check this out: there’s more bacteria on the human body than there are people in the United States. Yikes! But it’s not all bad news. What if we told you there’s a completely free—and easy—way to avoid all this nastiness? You’ve probably already guessed that we’re talking about handwashing.
Since October 14th is National Handwashing Day, we figure there’s no time like the present to help you scrub up on your hand hygiene. Here’s what you need to know about this healthy habit that everyone, everywhere should be doing all the time:
Shocking Statistics About Handwashing
Globally, only 1 out of 5 people wash their hands after using the bathroom, and only 5% of people wash well enough to kill all the germs.
It’s estimated that only 20% of people use soap when they wash their hands.
Handwashing with soap can prevent as many as 4 out of 10 cases of diarrhea.
Clearly, hand washing is important for the health of our kids and everyone around us, especially during the upcoming cold and flu season. In order to keep them as healthy as possible, teach your kids to wash their hands after using the restroom, before and after eating, after handling pets, playground or sporting equipment, and any time they’ve been sick themselves (such as after sneezing or coughing) or been around someone who has.
Wondering how to make the healthy habit stick? Below, we’ve outlined four tips for you to help your kids level up their hand washing game. Keep these in mind next time you’re tempted to wipe their hands with a baby wipe and call it a day.
Tip #1: Use the right handwashing technique
Handwashing doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, you can make it into a game with your kids! The CDC has put forth 5 simple steps to follow for proper hand washing:
- Wet – turn the water on and get your hands all the way wet
- Lather – pump the soap and spread it all over your hands
- Rub – rub your hands together to make bubbles, then scrub the skin. Be sure to remember to scrub between your fingers, under your nails and even onto your wrists.
- Rinse – rinse the soap off with clean, running water
- Dry – dry your hands with a clean towel or hot air dryer
Challenge your kids to see who can remember the next step, or sing a song to encourage them to scrub long enough. We love this infographic (courtesy of FastMed) which shows kids when and how to wash their hands.
Tip #2: Always use soap
When you’re washing lots of little hands, using soap can get pretty messy at times. So it’s understandable if you’re tempted to skip it from time to time. But both the CDC and the Global Handwashing Partnership urge you to avoid the temptation, with the latter saying, “Handwashing with soap is substantially more effective at cleaning your hands than hand washing with water alone. Rinsing hands with water is preferable to not handwashing at all, but handwashing with soap is more effective in removing dirt and germs from hands.”
Tip #3: Start early
It’s never too early to start establishing healthy habits. After all, you feed your kids healthy food from birth, right? So it’s not unreasonable to help kids learn to wash their hands as soon as they’re able to walk. And bonus—toddlers absolutely love playing with water and watching it run through their fingers. Add a small dot of soap, teach them to rub their hands together, and voila! Your little one is on her way to being a healthy handwasher. And those newly developed skills will serve them well in daycare and preschool, too, where studies show there’s a 2- to 3-fold increase in the risk of respiratory infections, ear infections, and diarrheal disease.
Tip #4: Use sanitizer when you can’t wash
Sometimes, it’s just not possible to get to a restroom to wash hands. That’s when hand sanitizer can come in, well, handy. Just note that it shouldn’t be used as a substitute for handwashing; only as a way of keeping germs at bay when you can’t suds up right away. And be sure to choose a sanitizer that contains alcohol.
According to the CDC, “Studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers. [Alcohol-free sanitizers] merely reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright.”
Global Handwashing Day is a worldwide day set aside by the Global Handwashing Partnership to promote awareness of the importance of handwashing with water and soap. Will you and your kids help celebrate this important day? It’s a great opportunity to teach your kids about other cultures and how they often don’t have many of the same resources we do. If you’ll be participating in Global Handwashing Day next week, share with us what you’ll do!