Hand-washing: The Single Greatest Childhood Disease Prevention

Nurture Kids Pediatrics

Hand-washing: The Single Greatest Childhood Disease Prevention

Most parents say they would do anything to keep their child safe and healthy.  They would throw themselves in front of a speeding car in order to save their child’s life.  They would gladly donate an organ if their child needed one.

These parents are sincere and passionate when they say that they would give their own life rather than see their child come to harm.  And yet, many parents fail to implement what the American Academy of Pediatrics has stated “may be the single most important act you and your child have for disease prevention.”

What is this miraculous method of preventing disease? Hand washing.  In fact, hand washing is so fundamentally important to health that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created an entire section on their website devoted to it.  On this website, you’ll find videos, podcasts, and posters that you can use to help teach your child the importance of regularly washing his or her hands. This is especially important during the cold and flu season.

Hand washing is a habit. If you don’t automatically wash your hands after going to the restroom, even when no one will know, then you’re not in the habit. If you’re not in the habit, then you must consciously establish it, the same way you would have to consciously break a habit that you want to stop. Trust me, your children are paying attention and will mimic your behavior. By making a commitment to your own health, you will be making a commitment to your child’s health.  Washing your hands regularly will be a lot less painful than throwing your body in front of a speeding car.

How to Properly Wash Your Hands

A splash of water and a squirt of soap won’t do the trick. Your hands must be wet, and you should rub the soap on them vigorously for 10 to 15 seconds to remove the germs. When you rinse away the soap, you rinse away the germs. You and your child can even come up with a 15-second hand washing song or sing two choruses of Happy Birthday.

If no soap or running water are available, an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol will reduce the number of germs that are present on the hands, but hands should be washed thoroughly at the first opportunity. It’s a good idea for parents to carry hand sanitizer for certain situations, but soap and water are always preferable.

Stay Away from Antibacterial Soap

Several drug-resistant pathogens (aka “superbugs”) are spreading across the country, notably CRKP (Carbapenem Resistant Klebsiella Pneumoniae), the most powerful superbug to date. The reason these bugs have grown so strong is because regular exposure to antibacterial agents such as antibacterial soap has allowed them to adapt. Antibacterial soaps and cleaning products may be partly to blame. Also to blame are prescription antibiotic medicines when the illness doesn’t warrant such treatment.

The good news is that CRKP and other superbugs are spread by skin-to-skin contact . . . yet another reason why regular, thorough hand washing is a must for you and for your children.