By: Jennifer Repepi, MD
There is one thing that we can all do to keep germs at bay all year long. Wash our hands! Seems so simple doesn't it? And it is. And it's fun, too. How many times do the children in your life want to play in the sink, a bucket, a cup? So add some soap and, voila! Clean hands!
OK, it's not rocket science but it is biology. Soap is important for getting the bacteria off of your hands. It really doesn't kill them but it gets them going down the drain. The soap gets the oils off of our hands which the bacteria cling to. Then rinsing our hands gets them to flush down the drain.
There really is not any benefit to "antibacterial" soaps in most households or public areas. The two things that are important are using the soap and rubbing the soap on our hands. About 15 seconds is what will work so many children can be taught to sing a song during that soapy scrub time. Even though it is longer than 15 seconds, Choosy Kids has a great handwashing song to educate children on rubbing and scrubbing! Use the chorus of the song for the 15 seconds of soapy washing.
Soap plus water is the best way to get germs off (dirt, too!) but when none is available, using hand sanitizing wipes, gels or foams can help to keep germs at bay. Many public areas have those readily accessible near doorways.
Just a word here about over washing or sanitizing. We have millions of beneficial bacteria that live inside and outside our bodies. Being sensible with hygiene helps to keep harmful bacteria away but too much may not be good for us either. Very dry and cracked skin may get infected more easily so don't forget to moisturize your hands and your children's hands once or a few times each day.
Reminding children to wash their hands after using the toilet, before eating, after playing with pets or outside, and being a good example by demonstrating good hand hygiene will help our families to stay healthy.