A battle has been raging between adults and children since the beginning of time. You know what I’m talking about. It’s about a simple, throughout-the-day routine that keeps some pretty serious diseases at bay. And it only requires two things—soap and water. Yup, hand-washing. Think about the most common question you hear parents ask their child when they finish in the bathroom: “Did you wash your hands?” That’s because this is a basic yet powerful habit to get into, and as this TED Talk reminded me, it’s a battle worth fighting. After all, it’s part of our job to teach the little people in our lives to do such things, right? Right.
Now, I like to think that we adults practice what we preach. We’d never skip this step ourselves. But since I’ve also used public restrooms, I know this isn’t always the case. It kind of cracks me up when I see the signs reminding employees to wash their hands before returning to work—mainly because the thought of anyone not doing it really grosses me out. Maybe we should get in the habit of asking not only our kids but also our adult friends the “Did you…?” question when they finish up too.
What’s the big deal about washing your hands? Here are some factoids from the Center for Disease Control about hand-washing that you may not be aware of:
- Diseases such as salmonella, E. coli, and adenovirus are often spread through human and animal feces.
- One gram of human feces can contain up to one trillion germs.
- Raw meat can also contain small amounts of both animal feces and any germs associated with it.
- Germs can enter our bodies through our eyes, nose, and mouth. Pay attention to the number of times you touch these areas of your body without even thinking about it. You might be surprised.
- Washing your hands with water only isn’t as effective as adding soap to the routine. Soap is what gets rid of the germs.
Now, I’m not some obsessive germaphobe who obsessively washes her hands all day long, but there are some commonsense situations when I always make sure to wash up:
- After I use the bathroom myself, help one of my kids, or change a diaper.
- Before and after I prepare food for my family.
- After I blow my nose or help a little person wipe his or hers.
- After I pick up our dog’s doo-doo on a walk.
- After I’ve been in contact with someone who is ill.
You’ll find some great resources on the importance of hand-washing at the CDC website, including fact sheets and posters. They also have instructions on how to properly wash your hands and statistics on how it can reduce the spread of disease.
I’ve also come across some easy homemade recipes for products that help keep our hands clean.
- Foaming hand soap. What little kid doesn’t love this stuff? Add whatever essential oils your family likes.
- Hand sanitizer. When you don’t have access to running water and soap, sanitizer is a good alternative. It’s not as effective, but it’s still better than nothing at all.
Hand-washing is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to staying healthy, but I think you’ll agree it’s a fundamental one. Instilling this habit in our kids at a young age means they’ll be more likely to continue with it throughout their lives. After all, being exposed to germs doesn’t stop when we become adults.
Do you have any tricks up your sleeve to get your kids to wash their hands?