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In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak across the world, we’ve gone from a society that thrives on social interaction to one that is restricted within the four walls of our homes. Social distancing has abruptly become a norm; well, so has handwashing at frequent intervals. We are sure that, as parents and caregivers, you must already be at the top of your game when it comes to protecting your children. We wanted to make sure handwashing is at the top of your checklist.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing certain kinds of germs, which cause the flu and diarrhoea. Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can inactivate many types of microbes very effectively when used correctly, people may not use a large enough volume of the sanitizers or may wipe it off before it has dried. CDC has gone ahead to provide guidelines on when and how to use a hand sanitizer.

The World Health Organization also recommends washing hands as the key precautionary measure to protect yourself and others from getting sick.

Learning by doing: Teach your kids the importance of handwashing

Jaralee Metcalf, a behavioural specialist from Idaho Falls Elementary School, conducted an interesting experiment to help children understand how infection spreads. Several kids with various levels (as shown in the picture) of hand cleanliness were asked to touch 5 pieces of white bread that were taken from the same loaf, at the same time. Then, they put the bread in individual plastic bags to observe what happens over the course of one month.

Image source: https://brightside.me/inspiration-health/a-teacher-did-an-experiment-to-show-the-power-of-handwashing-and-you-cant-stay-unimpressed-795485/The first piece was rubbed on all of the classroom laptops. The second one was a control piece — it wasn’t touched, it was placed immediately in the plastic bag and labelled “Fresh & untouched.” The third piece of bread was touched by the whole class using unwashed hands. For piece #4 the whole class washed their hands with warm water & soap and, again, touched the slice. And for bread piece #5, they cleaned their hands with hand sanitizer and then touched it.

The only slice of bread that didn`t have the obvious bacteria on it was example #4. It was the one that was touched by hands that were just washed with warm water & soap, which clearly showed the children why they should wash their hands often. It also proved that handwashing had better benefits than using a sanitizer.

Right handwashing technique

Since washing hands is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs, it is important to get it right. Below are the steps adapted from CDC recommendations along with our child-friendly tips –

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap

Pro-tip: Hands could become recontaminated if placed in a basin of standing water that has been contaminated through previous use, clean running water should be used

  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

Pro-tip: Microbes are present on all surfaces of the hand, often in particularly high concentration under the nails, so make sure you remove the dirt from here.

  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds

Pro-tip: Sing this rhyme with your children as they wash their hands and make it a fun activity

  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water and dry well

Pro-tip: Towel/air-dry and teach your kids the environmental impact of using too much paper

We sure hope that these tips are useful and that you are able to use this phase positively to spend as much time as possible with your family.  Stay safe and keep those hands Washy Washy Clean!