Published on August 03, 2016

Hand Washing & Kids: The "Dirt"

By Michael Parry, MD, Director of Infectious Disease and the Thomas J. Bradsell Chair of Infectious Diseases, Stamford Hospital

Washing hands saves livesLet’s admit... As adults, it can be challenging enough to wash our hands on a regular basis. In fact, only two thirds of us do this after we use the restroom. Yuck.

So what about our kids? As parents, this is where the “practice what you preach” rule comes into play. Wash your hands before eating or cooking, after using the bathroom, and after work or play.

Did you know? Over half of food-related illness outbreaks are caused by unwashed or poorly washed hands, according to the American Society for Microbiology. Hepatitis A and Norovirus outbreaks in daycare centers have been directly connected to lack of hand washing after changing diapers or using the bathroom or sharing toys.

Other pathogens, like E. coli and Shigella, have also been spread by lack of hand-washing. Washing hands also helps to prevent the spread of respiratory viral infections, impetigo, and conjunctivitis (pinkeye).

Teach your children to wash their hands before a meal, after using the bathroom, after playing, and after contact with animals. Show them how—all it takes is a little patience until the habit becomes second nature, according to the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

Children know when and why and how to wash their hands, but they forget to, APIC says. They will wash their hands if the dirt is the obvious kind like mud or finger paints. Less obvious dirt and germs tend to be ignored.

Stay tuned for the top techniques on teaching hand washing to your kids. It can be fun—we promise.