A child washing their hands at a kitchen sink.

The Importance of Handwashing and How It Can Affect Your Health

Like brushing their teeth, handwashing is another routine task that is necessary to teach your little ones. What's the importance of handwashing? It can prevent you and your family from getting sick, as well as stop the spread of germs or bacteria. Plus, it is a convenient, effective, and cheap option to avoid becoming ill. With handwashing, you and your family can enjoy all your activities and tasks - without unexpected interruptions.

In this article, we will discuss the importance of handwashing and we will provide actionable advice for parents in regards to how to teach children to wash their hands.

Why Should You Wash Your Hands?

It may seem like a simple answer: to avoid getting sick. However, it also protects others around you and your children from also becoming ill. And we all likely agree that getting sick is not fun.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent, the CDC, states, “Handwashing with soap could protect about 1 out of every 3 young children who get sick with diarrhea, and almost 1 out of 5 young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia.”

In fact, it can reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23% to 40%. Further, germs from no handwashing can easily be spread via other surfaces, such as doorknobs, counters, handrails, and toys.

In other words, proper handwashing sets the stage for you and the people around you to maintain good health; it also reduces the risk of developing potentially life-threatening illnesses.

When Should You Wash Your Hands?

Every day, you should encourage your child to wash their hands at regular times, including:

  • After using the bathroom
  • Before eating any snacks or meals or cooking and baking
  • When the hands are obviously dirty, such as after sandbox play or painting
  • After sneezing or coughing
  • After contact with any animals, such as pets or at a zoo
  • After being outside

By instilling that your child should wash their hands after such activities, you help them build a healthy handwashing habit that will continue to guide them toward good health well into the future.

Teaching Your Child Proper Handwashing

Start with the “when” and continue with the “how”. Use the five steps: wet, lather, scrub, rinse, and dry. You can also encourage fun throughout this activity, such as using a song for the amount of time it should take to wash one’s hands. Here’s the full breakdown:

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1. Wet the Hands

Begin by running the tap water and ensuring the temperature is just right (not too hot and not too cold). Have your child rinse their hands under the running water.

2. Lather

Have your child reach for the soap and lather their entire hands. This process should take about 15 to 20 seconds.

3. Scrub

Get in between the fingers and both sides of the hands. Lead by example and show your children how to do this properly. You will not want them to forget a single spot!

4. Rinse

After the scrubbing process, instruct your child to rinse the soap completely off of their hands.

5. Dry

Lastly, have them dry their hands with the hand towel, and they are done! Ensure that the faucet is turned off before exiting the room.

But how else can you make this process of teaching run smoother? Here are a few tips:

  • Remind them. At first, your child will need reminders on when and how to wash their hands properly. Continue reminding them until it becomes a regular habit.
  • Be the example. Show them you are washing your hands at the correct times and correctly. Your children will likely gladly follow.
  • Make it fun. As mentioned above, you can make a simple chore a bit more fun for your kids. Sing a song or do a finished hand wash dance. By making it more interesting, your kids may be more likely to do it.
  • Get fun soaps. There are loads of different kinds of soaps and different smelling soaps. Again, making it interesting can continue to keep your kids interested, ensuring they continue to wash their hands at the right times.

Further Prevention of Spreading Germs

While handwashing is an excellent way to prevent the spread of illness or germs, there are other precautions you and your family can take. If you or your child is sick, stay home. This will allow you or your child adequate time to recover and prevent giving it to other people. Avoid touching your face or your eyes, especially when out in public. Teach your children to cough or sneeze into their elbow. Further, keep your home clean through sanitization products and routine cleaning.

When out of the house and when proper handwashing is not available, you can also use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. This is the next best thing to actually washing your hands. All in all, prevent you and your children from becoming ill by teaching them the necessities around handwashing. It is a simple habit that can prevent days or weeks missed from school or work. Plus, a healthy family is a happy family.