Handwashing is the best way of avoiding germs and passing them around if we get ill. Set a good example to your children by being a regular hand washer yourself. Your children will need help and supervision to wash their hands well until they are around 8 years old and will probably need reminding after that too!
Hands should be washed;
- After using the toilet / changing nappies
- Before preparing or eating food
- Before preparing babies bottles
- After being outside playing or gardening
- After coughing or sneezing or touching dirty tissues
- Before and after looking after anyone who is being sick /feeling poorly
- After touching animals
- Any other time you think they look grubby!
Washing your hands does not need to take long – about twenty seconds (sing Happy Birthday twice!).
Steps for good handwashing;
- Wet your hands
- Add soap to your wet hands
- Rub hands together palm to palm
- Use one hand to rub the back of one hand then swap over
- Clean in between your fingers
- Rub your fingers into your soapy palms cleaning the nails and tips of fingers
- Clean your thumbs
- Rinse well – dry well on a clean towel ( paper or dryer when out).
There are great videos for you and your children to watch together to make sure your hand washing works well to protect you from germs.
Soap and water is a really effective way to clean your skin. Sometimes it may not be available.
When this happens you can use an alcohol gel sanitiser – it is useful to have in your bag. Although baby wipes clean your hands they do not kill germs in the way that soap and water or an alcohol gel will.
If you are not able to wash your hands – be especially careful not to touch your face, or eat until you get back to a place where you can give them a really good wash with soap and water.
We want children to understand the importance of protecting themselves from germs but we do not want them to become worried and anxious about it.
Young children will not understand the importance of good hygiene to avoid germs that make them ill. Because they like to copy you – if they see you washing your hands regularly, then they will get into this important habit from an early age.
Tell them what you are doing and why;
‘We are washing our hands because we have been playing outside and I don’t want the dirt to get off my hands and on my sandwich – that might make me ill’
Some children get very worried about germs. Sometimes there is a lot of information on the news about illnesses and this can be hard for them to understand – it can sound frightening even though the facts might be that children are at a low risk.
Although it is important to know about the risk to our health you can reassure them that there are easy ways to keep safe.
- Be calm yourself when talking to your child – they will pick up on your anxiety.
- Explain to them all the things that you, and they, do to keep safe from germs - like handwashing, using tissues, keeping the house clean.
Talk about how we can keep well by making healthy choices – eating fruit and vegetables and getting exercise help us have a strong immune system to protect us from germs. There is a great cartoon about the immune system and how it works here.
Talk about how you have protected them from a lot of serious illnesses by having them immunised when they were little. Remind them that they are young and strong and even if they get poorly from a germ they are likely to get better quickly!
Germs are found in our home but we can keep our families well by keeping it clean. It is better to clean little and often rather than waiting until houses need a ‘deep clean’. If you are busy concentrate on keeping kitchens and bathrooms clean daily and other areas when you have more time.
- Try and keep the areas tidy and get rid of rubbish quickly.
- Wipe down all surfaces using a disinfectant. Start cleaning in the cleanest area and finish with the dirtiest – so that you don’t spread the germs around.
- Use cloths, sponges or paper towels that you can easily throw away, or wash on a very hot wash after.
- Make sure you wash your hands well with soap and water after you’ve finished cleaning.
Who Can Help?
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
If you are 11-19 you can text Chathealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of the Healthy Child Programme team.