Hand Hygiene

By Sue Rouillard, MEd

Now that your little one is learning how to “go potty,” it is time to be sure that he knows how important it is to wash his hands and how to do it correctly. I’m sure washing hands is a part of your toileting routine. Did you know that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using ordinary soap? If you go to their hand washing website:  http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/ you will find out all sorts of things about hand washing that you might not have known before! The CDC recommends this procedure for washing your hands:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

It is important to get the backs of your hands, in between your fingers, and under your nails each time you wash up. We have a nail brush next to the soap at my house to make this easier. You can pick one up cheaply at most drugstores. If you don’t get all the creases, then you’ve missed some of the germs that can make you sick, and it only takes one to lay you out with the flu for a week!

When should you wash up?

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • After you use the toilet
  • Before you eat
  • After you sneeze or cough
  • After changing a baby
  • After touching anything that has to do with animals
  • After treating an injury

That list makes it sound like you’ll be washing your hands all day long, but remember, it’s only 20 seconds!

Hand Sanitizers

Hand sanitizers do not work on hands that are visibly dirty. Use them after washing your hands or for a quick cleaning of hands that don’t have any substance (dirt, glue, food, etc.) on them. Remember, the best way to clean your hands is with soap and water. If you are using hand sanitizer, use one with at least 60% alcohol in order to kill all the germs. Wipe it all over your hands and keep wiping until all of it has evaporated. This is especially important if you are putting it on a child who tends to put their fingers in their mouth.

Sanitizer Safety

Sanitizer is completely safe to use; however, it should be kept out of the reach of small children. Sanitizer with 60% alcohol has the same amount of alcohol as a drink that is 120 proof! There have been cases where children obtained the sanitizer when the parent wasn’t looking and the child ingested enough to make themselves very sick. Just three squirts could cause alcohol poisoning in a small child. Fortunately, in the cases that I read, no harm came to the children. Just remember to wipe the hands of young children until all of the sanitizer evaporates. Once evaporated, the sanitizer does not pose a problem and the little one can go back to gnawing their knuckles. (For more information, visit: http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/sanitizer.asp)

In conclusion, hand washing can be a bit of a chore with a wiggly little one. The song “I Wash My Hands” on the Potty Time DVD has a chorus that is just about the perfect amount of time needed for scrubbing little fingers. So you can sing and sign your way through this part of potty training too!

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