Regular hand washing will help stop the spread of illnesses, including the H1N1 (Swine) flu. It’s important to teach children how to wash their hands effectively. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are several steps which parents and teachers can pass on to their children and students:
1. Hands should be washed using soap and warm, running water
2. Hands should be rubbed vigorously during washing for at least 20 seconds with special attention paid to the backs of the hands, wrists, between the fingers and under the fingernails
3. Hands should be rinsed well while leaving the water running
4. With the water running, hands should be dried with a single-use towel
5. Turn off the water using a paper towel, covering washed hands to prevent re-contamination.
In the school where I teach, we build hand washing into the daily schedule, and we try to make it fun. With two teachers we are able to divide the class in half, with one half using the bathroom sink and the other half standing on a stool in front of the large sink. Just jumping up and down from the stool is a treat. We also have the children sing either the ABC’s or a hand-washing song to ensure they are spending 20 seconds on the process.
The mother of a 4 year old questioned the school’s policy on hand washing, after her son had gotten sick twice within just a couple of weeks. Neither time he had the H1N1 flu, but she was extremely worried that he might get that next. This mother urged the Preschool Director to have the teachers wash the students’ hands more often.
In our classroom, the children wash their hands with soap and water each time they use the bathroom. They also wash them after playtime which comes just before snack. We wash them once again when they come in from the playground. Though our kids are only in school for 2 ½ hours, three days a week, we feel the time we spend on hand washing is important.
This mother, however, wondered why we didn’t wash the children’s hands as soon as they entered the classroom in the morning. Certainly, we could do that, but with a dozen or more children in the average classroom, that is a time consuming process. If the parent or caretaker washes each child’s hands before entering the classroom, that will allow more time for other valuable activities.
I have always been a big believer in allowing kids to come in contact with germs, because they ultimately need to build defenses against them. Yet, the H1N1 has changed my thinking, at least until this epidemic is behind us. We can all take part in doing our share to help protect our kids.