It is that dreaded time of year again where all kinds of infections are running rampant. In addition to re-running our blog on Influenza (as the information on Influenza is essentially the same), we wanted to give an update on ways to lower your child’s risk of getting infections.
Although we know that avoiding exposure to illness is the only guaranteed prevention, we realize it is impossible to do in our society. The good news is there are other things we can do to lower the risk of getting and spreading infections. The BEST way to prevent your child from getting sick is – and we’re sure you have guessed it – is by keeping his or her hands clean. Yes, we know that is definitely easier said than done; all you can do is your best.
Many people do not know the best way to clean their hands. Over the last several years, hand sanitizers have become extremely popular, as they are easy and quick to use. One common question asked is: “Which is a better method to clean your hands, washing with soap and water or using a hand sanitizer?” Although hand sanitizers have their uses, in general hand washing with soap and water is better. It removes/inactivates more types of germs and therefore does a better job of lowering the risk of getting sick from germs on the hands, and from spreading diseases. However, what many people do not realize is that in order for either method to work well, it must be done properly. We will now summarize the proper method for hand washing with soap and water and use of a hand sanitizer.
PROPER HAND WASHING TECHNIQUE
1. Get hands wet with water (either warm or cold will do!) and then apply soap. (Remember, an anti-bacterial soap is NOT necessary, any soap will do the job!)
2. After applying the soap, rub hands together vigorously to produce a good lather. Scrub ALL parts of hands: palms and backs, all fingers, and below the nails. Make sure to continue scrubbing for AT LEAST 20 seconds – this will help ensure optimal reduction in the germs on the hands. A good way to time 20 seconds is to sing/hum “Happy Birthday” twice.
3. When done singing, :) rinse hands thoroughly with water and then dry them with a CLEAN towel or via an air dryer.
Remember, proper scrubbing of ALL parts of the hands and doing it for AT LEAST 20 seconds is very important. Simply getting hands wet and applying soap and gently scrubbing for a few seconds will NOT properly clean the hands.
PROPER TECHNIQUE FOR USING HAND SANITIZER
1. Make sure hands are free of dirt and grease. The effectiveness of hand sanitizers is significantly reduced when hands are greasy and/or visibly dirty.
2. Apply the sanitizer on one hand (palm). Make sure to apply enough sanitizer to cover the entirety of both hands and fingers when rubbing it in.
3. Rub hands together so that the sanitizer is applied to all parts of hands and fingers. Just like with soap and water, it is very important that all the surfaces of the hands and fingers are covered. Keep rubbing the sanitizer all over hands until hands are dry.
4. Always use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. (Many studies have shown that sanitizers with alcohol concentrations less than 60% are not as effective. In addition, non-alcohol based sanitizers may cause more skin irritation.)
One very important side note about hand sanitizers. Hand sanitizers containing alcohol and other ingredients are very toxic substances, so please keep them away from children. Just because hand sanitizers may taste “bad,” does not mean a child will not drink them. In addition, some older children/adolescents have purposely ingested alcohol-based sanitizers to get drunk.
In summary, hand sanitizers should be thought of as something to use in addition to hand washing with soap and water, not as a substitute. If soap and water are available, definitely use them. However, if they are not available, hand sanitizer is a viable option for decreasing the germs on your child’s hands. Remember – whatever method you use – follow the directions above and do it properly!
While keeping hands clean goes a long way in preventing illness and its spread, maintaining a healthy lifestyle also helps by ensuring that your child’s immune system is working at peak efficiency. A healthy lifestyle includes eating well (several servings of fruits and veggies every day, whole grains, eliminating processed carbs, etc.), as well as keeping hydrated, getting regular/adequate sleep, and staying active (minimize that screen time!). Doing all of these things will keep your child in good shape to better prevent and fight off illnesses.
May good health be with you!!!
Pediatric Specialists of the Northwest