I can still hear my mother asking, "Did you wash your hands before dinner?" And to this day, the habit has stuck. Turns out, her ages-old advice is more important today than ever before. December is National Handwashing Awareness Month and with colds and flu lurking around every corner, it's the perfect time to remember the importance of washing your hands. Let's face it, kids don't always listen when you tell them to wash up, but it's by far the best way to prevent germs from spreading and to keep you and them from getting sick.
Colds and flu aren't the only thing that handwashing can help prevent. You can add conjunctivitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, Coxsackie virus, Streptococcus and more to the list! In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, "the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands."
If you're looking for a little extra help promoting handwashing in your home, check out the Henry the Hand Web site. Infection prevention specialist, Dr. Will Sawyer offers tips like these that can help just about everyone become a champion handwasher:
- Wash your hands when they are dirty and before eating
- Do not cough into your hands
- Do not sneeze into your hands
- Above all, do not put your fingers into your eyes, nose or mouth
Keep in mind that handwashing is important for everyone, but it's especially crucial to get children into the habit. Children have weaker immune systems than adults and can become sick quicker. But don't overlook your own handwashing habits. These rules apply to everyone:
Six Main Rules of Hand Washing:
- Always wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, cleaning up after your pets or handling money.
- Wash your hands when they're dirty.
- Always wash your hands before eating.
- Don't cough or sneeze into your hands.
- Refrain from putting your fingers in your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid touching people and surfaces with unclean hands.
To combat a dirty hands epidemic in my house, I clipped a copy of these "rules" and posted them near every sink:
The right way to wash your hands
- Wet hands with warm water (not hot) and use soap. Seventh Generation makes wonderfully gentle line of handwashing products, both bar soap and liquid hand wash that can turn handwashing into a pleasure.
- Rub your hands together, making sure to scrub all areas.
- Rub for a minimum of 15 seconds (or sing "Happy Birthday").
- Rinse thoroughly, then dry hands on a clean towel.
- Turn faucet off with the towel, not your hands, to avoid recontamination.