Reasons to Teach Good Hand Hygiene in Schools
As all parents with young children will know, infectious bugs and viruses can spread like wildfire in schools making our children highly susceptible to coughs, colds, the extremely infectious norovirus (known as the winter vomiting bug) and other nasties such as chickenpox and measles if your children haven’t been vaccinated. The children then take the infections back home to share with the rest of the family!
This is almost inevitable because children, teachers and support staff are all exposed to a high number of germs whilst in school due to the number of people per square foot, unsupervised toilets and kids being kids and touching everything in sight!
So, what can be done to reduce the risks and that rate at which such outbreaks are spread?
It is extremely important for schools to encourage good hand hygiene, but initial training needs to start in the home so that it begins second nature and something they do automatically to maintain good personal hygiene and prevent the spread of germs.
Of course, schools have a duty to ensure the schools are clean and hygienic, but they also need to embrace as many ways as possible to continually remind the children about the importance of hand washing.
Why is regular hand washing in schools so important?
It sounds obvious and so simple yet in a busy school day with dozens of children per class it is easy to see why so many classrooms are rife with germs and illnesses.
Regular hand washing is so important because;
- Soap helps to effectively remove germs from hands that can lead to illnesses.
- Kids regularly touch their mouth, eyes, nose and face without even realising. This can lead to them contracting an illness or passing an illness on from themselves to someone else.
- Food can be contaminated by unwashed hands. This could be from the teachers preparing a snack or the kids eating it.
- Under certain conditions some germs are able to multiply in foods and drinks, making people who consume them unwell.
- Unwashed hands easily transfer germs to frequently touched objects like toys, handrails, door handles, desks and tabletops.
- Thorough and regular handwashing helps to prevent the spread of contagious illnesses such as diarrhoea and respiratory infections which can make some children and adults very unwell.
- Good hand hygiene not only helps to prevent the spread of illnesses but this, in turn, reduces the number of days’ children are absent from school – as well as teachers, helping to improve attendance for everybody.
Teach children the important times to wash their hands.
It’s helpful to be specific with children and put into place good practice within the school. By teaching them at a young age it is easier to instil good handwashing practices so that they become second nature.
From a teaching perspective, obviously it’s not realistic nor practical for children to get up from their desks mid-lesson to wash their hands, so teaching them the points in the day that it is important is a good way to prompt them.
When children should wash their hands?
- Before eating food at break, lunch or snack time
- After going to the toilet
- Before and after any cooking/baking/food making
- After touching their mouths, sneezing or wiping their nose
- After touching rubbish bins
There are certainly lots of opportunities for teachers to remind children about hand-washing during these times.
Good hand washing techniques
It’s no good just telling a child to wash their hands. This will likely end in a quick splash under the tap and a quick dry on their trousers or jumper. Thorough hand washing techniques are extremely important and something that all children should know.
How to wash hands properly;
- Wet hands with warm water
- Using a pump of soap, lather and scrub hands for at least 20 seconds
- Be sure to scrub the palms, backs and sides of hands as well as the fingers and nails
- Teach them to count to the 20 seconds or sing a song or rhyme that lasts that long
- Wash soap away with warm running water
- Dry hands thoroughly using available means (paper towels or air dryer)
Learning about good hygiene doesn’t have to be boring for children. Parents, teachers and schools can benefit from improved hygiene by helping to encourage hand washing in a number of ways.
- Educate them – there are lots of great, fun characters and hand washing cartoons out there.
- Put up colourful posters on walls, bathroom doors and near sinks.
- Make a song or a rhyme about hand washing.
- Turn it into a science lesson and show some images of germs under a microscope.
- Reward them with stickers for a week’s good hand washing.
- Include it in your lessons and have special colouring-in, crafts or games based on it.
To ensure that children are able to effectively wash their hands, the bathrooms themselves need to be properly cleaned, maintained and comprise of the necessary equipment such as hand dryers, bins and soap dispensers. By hiring professional, reliable and environmentally-friendly washroom services Essex, schools can help to keep their children and staff healthy.