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Drew: Safety Tips for Hand Washing at School

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By Samuetta Hill Drew

Last week’s safety article reviewed facial coverings safety tips to practice for students returning to school. The article recommended that parents engage in an open discussion about the importance of wearing a mask using only currently known scientific facts as their rationale. The conversation should be age appropriate.
While engaging in this conversation with your child(ren) another important topic should be discussed. This topic is about the importance of hand washing. It is considered by some as the most powerful antidote to illness.

Many pediatricians believe is may be the single most important act you and your child(ren) have for disease prevention. This topic, along with the one last week, is important to emphasize because the flu and cold season is merely a few months away during a pandemic, COVID-19.

It is a good idea to begin hand washing as a habit as early as possible. Children need to understand they are exposed to all types of viruses and bacteria throughout the day at home, at school, etc. Discuss with them these viruses and bacteria are passed to them when they touch a playmate, doorknobs, toys, paper/pencils, laptops or even the pet cat/dog. Explain to them that picking up an infection can happen in seconds and cause an infection/illness which can last for days, weeks or even longer. They need to understand once the bacteria or virus is picked up, it can easily be spread by:

• Rubbing their eyes
• Touching their noses
• Placing their fingers in their mouths

Therefore, it is important to wash your hands immediately after touching these types of items without touching the facial body parts previously mentioned. Use hand sanitizer if facility to wash your hands immediately afterward is not available.
The primary goal is to get your child(ren) to wash their hands frequently throughout the day. You want to make it a daily habit. So, during your conversation outline the times they should wash their hands:

• Before eating, including a snack
• After using the bathroom each time
• When they come inside after playing outdoors
• After touching an animal like a family pet
• After sneezing or coughing if they cover their mouth. During COVID-19, it is recommended you sneeze or cough into the bend of your arm (by your elbow)
• When someone in the house is sick

They also need to understand a splash of water and a squirt of soap is not sufficient in getting their hands clean. Instead make them aware they need to:

• Wet their hands
• Apply a clean bar of soap or liquid soap to their hands
• Rub their hands vigorously together, scrubbing the entire surface of their hands back and front
• Rub for 20 seconds (two stanzas of Happy Birthday)
• Then rinse their hands until they are soap free and dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel.

In your efforts to Keep an Eye on Safety for your child(ren) returning to school encourage them to wash their hands at home, school, friend’s home, and all other appropriate clean places.