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I'm a pediatrician by training with an undergrad degree in journalism. I spend my days teaching and mentoring future pediatricians. My wife and I spend our evenings and weekends keeping up with very active twins. This blog will chronicle my thoughts on current children's health care issues and trends, trials and tribulations as a parent and husband mixed in with a lot of life experience.


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photo William Stratbucker, MD
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Does Your Child Wash His or Her Hands Properly?
by William Stratbucker, MD at 10:29 AM

Michelle Lancaster is an infection prevention nurse at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. She is our guest blogger this week.

As an infection prevention nurse at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, I help prevent the spread of germs within the hospital by teaching patients, families and employees about ways they can stay healthy. One of the most important ways to help stop the spread of germs is through proper hand washing. This is true not only in the hospital setting, but anywhere you go. I wanted to share some hand washing tips for you and your child:

  • Make hand washing fun! Young children especially can be turned off by soaps with an unappealing scent or grainy texture. Finding hand washing supplies your child likes may mean he or she will wash more frequently and thoroughly. Letting the child help pick out the soap or a fun towel might make hand washing seem like less of a chore.
  • Steer your child towards a liquid, moisturizing soap, if possible. Bar soaps don't always dry well between uses and can harbor germs. Also, hands can get dry, especially in wintertime, so look for a soap that moisturizes.
  • Teach your child to rub his or her hands together until bubbles form. Wet hands well with warm water, then apply soap and work into bubbly lather for 20 seconds before rinsing.
  • Have your child sing "Happy Birthday" twice while washing. Some families sing the "A, B, C's", count to 20 or use a timer; you could also have your child make up their own hand washing song. Make sure they wait to rinse off the soap until after the singing is complete.
  • Make sure to clean all surfaces of the hand. Many children think the palms of their hands are the only areas that need cleaning. Remind them that hand washing includes the front and back of hands, fingernails, thumbs and wrists.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are just as good as soap if used correctly. Be sure to use enough product so that it takes you 20 seconds to rub it all in. Pay attention to all areas of the hands
  • Make sure your child follows the rules at school, too. Be sure to give them alcohol-based hand sanitizer that can be kept in a desk or backpack and used often during the school day.
  • Teach your child to share hand sanitizer with their friends- at lunch, in class, on the playground, it's nice to share and rarely do people refuse a squirt of hand sanitizer.

When to wash hands is just as important as how to wash them. Teach your child to wash at these times (and keep these times in mind for yourself as well):

  • Before and after preparing food
  • Before and after meals
  • Before and after using the bathroom (or, for parents, when changing a diaper)
  • Before and after taking care of or being with someone who is sick.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After handling animals or their waste
  • After handling garbage
  • Before and after treating cut or wound

Remember to use soap and water whenever hands are visibly dirty or after toileting; hand sanitizer works well in most other circumstances. Keep hand washing fun and be a good role model for healthy living by washing your hands often.

Remember, good health is in your hands.

- Michelle Lancaster, BS, RN, CIC

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