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Parents & Educators

This month Elmer talks about preventing the spread of viruses, with an emphasis on good hand-washing.

Children are constantly exploring the world with their hands. That means they need a good hand-washing routine to stay healthy and prevent the spread of germs, especially during cold and flu season.

Help children develop good habits by teaching them to take 20 seconds to wash their hands under warm, soapy water. They can count the 20 seconds by singing a song such as Row, Row, Row Your Boat or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Children should also be taught that it is important to wash their hands with soap and water before they eat, before they help with cooking, before setting the table, after coming in from playing outside, and after using the bathroom.

There are five steps to good hand-washing. Practice these with your children and set a good example. 

  1. Turn on the taps and wet hands with warm running water. To prevent burns, teach your child to turn on the cold water first, and then the hot water.
  2. Put a little bit of soap in the palm of one hand. Bars of soap are less hygienic than liquid soap; therefore, use liquid soap if possible.
  3. Rub hands together for 20 seconds. Work up a good lather, scrubbing between fingers, under fingernails and the backs of hands.
  4. Rinse hands well with clean running water.
  5. Dry hands using a clean towelDisposable, one-use paper-towels are ideal. If cotton towels are used, each person in the household should have his or her own, and it should be changed daily.

Even after hands are washed, teach children that they should not touch their faces. The flu virus easily spreads when hands come in contact with the eyes, nose or mouth.

Children should learn that it is better to cough or sneeze into their arm than into their hands. If they use a tissue, they put it in the garbage as soon as possible and wash their hands.

The goal is not to scare children into becoming afraid of germs, or becoming obsessed with hand-washing; rather, it is to teach them good habits and that they have a role to play in making sure they stay healthy.