5 Reasons Why Hand Hygiene Is Important For Children

Did you know that your little one is vulnerable to a host of diseases when she doesn't wash her hands? Here, we tell you why this small step makes a huge difference in staying healthy.

By Siddiqha Naseem  • 7 min read

5 Reasons Why Hand Hygiene Is Important For Children

Ram and Deepak are brothers. On their way home from school, they pet the homeless puppy in the street. They play with it for a while and then get back home. The next day, Ram is sick with a viral infection, while Deepak is healthy and goes to school. Megha, the mother of the duo, wonders how Ram got the infection.  

She later learns that her sons were playing with the street dog. Megha tells Ram that his brother cleans his hand every time before he eats something. This helps remove germs and keeps him healthy. She advises her Ram to also wash his hands thoroughly to stay away from illnesses. 

Children are exposed to a host of germs every day, when they are at school, out in the playground or even when they are inside the house. Even though healthy food habits can keep children away from many diseases, contamination can easily make them fall sick. When they do not wash their hands, some bacteria or viruses may stay on the surface of their skin, their hands and feet. When they touch and eat food, or even rub their eyes with the contaminated hands, the germs enter their body. One of the most simple and effective methods of killing germs is proper handwashing.   

Dr. Krishnan Chugh, Head - Paediatrics, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, says that "The worms in the intestine of children, often spread and develop because of not washing hands properly after playing outside."

How does disease spread from person to person?

Many diseases spread by physical contact. When an infected person touches a healthy one, many disease-causing bacteria, fungi or viruses may get transmitted. This results in a healthy person becoming ill.  

Childhood diseases that spread through physical contact

Now that we know that germs can easily spread from person to person, let us see what are the diseases this can cause.

Chicken Pox: This is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It starts as a slight fever followed by cold and skin rashes.

Hand, foot and mouth disease: This is a viral infection caused by two types of viruses called coxsackievirus and enterovirus. The viruses can spread from person to person through body fluids like saliva and nasal mucus, the affected person‘s faeces and through secretions from the blisters. 

Ringworm: This is an infection in the intestine of children. When they consume contaminated food, they may swallow the worm eggs. These are usually not visible to the naked eye. These worms settle and develop in the intestine of children. When an infected child touches another healthy one, the infection can spread. Some common symptoms include itchy bottoms and behavioural changes. 

Scabies: This itchy skin condition is caused by a tiny mite, Sarcoptes scabiei that may be just 0.2– 0.4mm in length and not visible to the naked eye. They infest the skin and cause rashes.

Are hand sanitisers and soaps effective to tackle germs?

Doctors advise that children must wash their hands with soap and water after playing outdoors, before eating a meal, after touching a pet, etc. Children have delicate skin so, hand sanitisers are usually too strong for them. However, the same can be said about regular soaps. Both are equally safe for kids, provided they have skin-friendly components that make them gentle on children's skin. 

Tips to educate your child about the importance of handwashing

A boring lecture is never the right option to tell children the importance of washing hands. Give your child an example, of anyone she can relate to, who has fallen sick because of not maintaining hand hygiene. A fun idea to cultivate the habit in her is to sing hygiene songs. Children under eight can sing along when they wash hands, where the lyrics of the songs talk about the importance of handwashing. This tends to stay longer in their minds.

Parents assume that their children know how to wash their hands. We often forget that these things may be basic and simple to us, but children need to be taught how to do it right. Show your little one how to properly wash his hands. Watch him do it and gently correct him when he does it wrong. Because healthy hands contribute to a healthy living!

With Inputs from Dr Krishnan Chugh, Head - Paediatrics, Fortis Memorial Research Institute.

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