Handwashing – it’s something I think most of us learn the hard way as parents. I mean, we all *know* about washing our hands but when we’re busy (show me a parent, I’ll show you someone with a million things to do in the next ten minutes) it’s easy to let it slip a bit. You teach your kids to wash their hands, but as they grow you can’t watch them every second, and you just trust that they’re doing it right.
In our case it was a combination of a stomach bugs and worms that taught the lesson properly.
First off came the worms. ugh. I know. Hideous things. I was prepared for pretty much any childhood illness – but not for those little white wrigglers. And they always stick their head out (literally…) at night, which means that unless you happen to have worm tabs in the cupboard there’s nothing you can do except wait until the following morning, breathing on the chemists door at an ungodly hour waiting for you to get in there and buy some tablets to make the evil creatures living inside your precious child vamoose.
The very first time No.1 got worms we had a long and strict handwashing lesson. He was six, he knew this stuff – but having a parasite wriggling out of him really brought that lesson home; it did the job, and not only did he not pass the creatures on (which is SO so easy with worms) but he never got them again, either.
And then, a year later, there was The Norovirus Incident. Yikes that was a rough few days. As the debilitating virus scampered around the family, we once again had to go through the complete handwashing drill with the children; wash, with soap, throughly. No glancing splash from a running tap is going to keep your hands clean and free from bugs. It’s just the only way to try and keep the spread of the really horrible virus under control in your home.
In fact, according to the Hygiene Council, you can cut your risk of suffering from a stomach bug by 50% just by washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. It’s a simple measure that can make a huge difference to your health – and the health of your family.
Along the way of raising The Four, as with all parenting skills, I learned a few tricks to getting kids to wash their hands properly:
1 – Start Early
As soon as they’re sitting on a potty, make sure they wash their hands afterwards, using soap. It should be so intrinsically linked in their minds that not doing it feels weird – like sitting in the car without your seatbelt. Wash before they eat, wash when they come in from the garden… Repeat, repeat, repeat until it’s a muscle memory reflex that they’ll never lose.
2 – Make It Easy
Use pump-action liquid or foam soaps to make it simple for even the youngest child to manage. And add a step at the sink so that they can reach easily.
3 – Make It Visual
Next time you’re painting or baking together, make sure your child washes their own hands, and while they’re cleaning all that colour off talk about how it’s like germs, and you need to really clean properly to make them all disappear. A neat story brings home how these magic invisible bugs can work, and kids love battling the invisible bad guys living on their skin!
Did you know that
- Your kitchen sink contains 100,000 times more germs than your toilet
- One single bacterium can become more than 8 million bacteria in less than a day
- The flu virus can remain active on surfaces for up to 48 hours
You can get involved by interacting with the #GiveLifeAHand tweets and uploading a photo of you or your family’s clean hands (a ‘handfie!’) under the #HealthyHands hashtag. For every #HealthyHands picture uploaded, Dettol has pledged to educate a child on healthy handwashing habits.
Healthy hands mean healthy children – so spread health, not germs. It’s time to break the chain of infection and make a difference to children’s health across the globe.