With the flu season nearly upon us and the H1N1 virus running rampant, most moms are concerned that their children may become infected with the virus. And while we can do our best to maintain cleanliness and good hygiene in our homes, it’s difficult to know what children may be exposed in public areas like school and playgrounds.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends proper hand hygiene as one of the top ways to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus, particularly in public places. Frequent hand-washing and, equally as important, thorough hand drying can mean the difference between a healthy and an infected child this fall. Studies have shown that only 28 percent of middle and high school girls wash their hands with soap and water after using the restroom. Boys were even worse, with only eight percent taking the time to wash. Teach your children proper hand-washing techniques so they’re able to maintain the precedence you set in your home wherever they go.
Knowing When to Wash Hands
The H1N1 virus can last on hard surfaces for 24-48 hours and easily transfers to hands for up to 24 hours. Teach children to wash their hands whenever they:
· Arrive at school
· Eat any meals or snacks
· Visit the restroom
· Sneeze or cough
· Play outside
· See their hands are visibly dirty
The Best Way for Kids to Wash
Hands are full of surfaces that can be difficult to reach, which means that many people, especially children, tend to forget certain parts. Teach your kids that whenever they should sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice whenever they wash their hands to know they’ve scrubbed them enough.
Show children these steps for proper hand-washing:
· Wet hands with clean warm water
· Apply soap
· Rub hands together vigorously and scrub all surfaces for 20 seconds. Remember to wash both thumbs as they are often skipped
· Wash under nails since millions of germs gather there
· Rinse with clean water
Dry Hands Help Reduce the Risk
Damp hands spread 1,000 times more germs than dry hands so it’s as important for kids to dry their hands as it is to wash them. When away from home, a single-use paper towel ensures their hands can be completely dried and are virtually germ free.
In fact, a 2008 University of Westminster study showed paper towels are the only option that actually reduces the number of bacteria on hands (by up to 77%). While many people believe hot air drying is the most hygienic way to dry hands, warm air dryers can actually increase the bacteria on hands by up to 254 percent.
Follow these hand drying tips:
· Dry hands with a single-use paper towel until they are completely dry
· Use the paper towel to avoid contact with frequently touched surfaces while leaving public washrooms, such as the faucet and door handles
 Patrick, D.R., Findon, G., Miller, T.E., Epidemiology and Infection
 Redway, Keith & Fawdar, Shameem, University of Westminster Study