The plain and simple truth is that we are covered in germs. The germs that present on our skin are there to help us stay healthy but in addition to these ‘good’ germs we also pick up bad germs from contact with other people or objects around us. These germs can cause you to fall ill. Many are of the belief that germs are spread through the air but this is inaccurate – germs are most commonly spread via hand contact. This makes hand hygiene extremely important.

The term hand hygiene is a fairly new one. It directly refers to cleaning or decontaminating your hands appropriately to help stop the spread of germs.

You can keep your hands hygienically clean by either washing them with soap and water or using alcohol-based sanitisers. When you wash your hands with soap and hot water, you’re able to lift the germs off your hands and rinse them down the drain. As far as hand hygiene goes, hand sanitisers are better than soap and water as they have the ability to kill more germs and they don’t dehydrate your skin as much. By using a alcohol based sanitiser you can reduce the germs on your hands but they cannot sufficiently clean visibly dirty hands. If your hands are dirty and you can see the marks and grime, you should definitely wash your hands with hot water and soap.

Washing your hands should be a habit that is instilled in children and adults alike.

Washing your hands with soap and water is something that should happen without question all the time. Here are some examples of when you should head to the basin for a good hand washing:
  • If you can see that your hands are dirty and there are marks and grime present.
  • Before you sit down to eat your food.
  • Before cooking or preparing a meal.
  • After having prepared a meal – especially after you have handled raw meat.
  • After you’ve been in contact with any bodily fluids.
  • After changing a baby’s nappy.
  • After you have been to the toilet.
  • After interacting with your pets or any animals.
  • After you have blown your nose or you have sneezed.
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If you follow these rules, you’re practising good hand hygiene and stopping the spread of germs that can make you and your family sick.

Hand sanitisers have become a very popular item found in handbags, work bags and tog bags alike, and with good reason.  But should they be present in your child’s school bag?

An alcohol-based hand sanitiser usually contains about 60% alcohol which means that it’s perfectly fine for adults to use and it will eradicate many harmful germs but many parents are concerned about their children making use of it. With such a high alcohol content should your child mistakenly ingest the sanitiser it would be equivalent to them ingesting seriously hard liquor (considering whiskey is only at around 40-45% alcohol). It is recommended that the use of hand sanitiser by children must be supervised. In other words, the parent places a pea-sized amount of sanitiser in the child’s hand and teaches the child to rub their hands together immediately so that it dries quickly. Children should also be reminded that they must not put their hands into their mouth. Furthermore, follow the product’s instructions that warn you to keep out of the reach of children.Use your hand sanitiser when there is no wash basin and soap available, or when:
  • You routinely want to clean your hands and they appear clean already (no dirty marks of grime seen).
  • You have to touch potentially contaminated objects such as dirty tissues, dirt bins, old food and nappies..
  • If you have had to care for a sick person or you are caring for infants or the elderly, sanitise your hands before and after contact.
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Hand hygiene must start in the home and with children, so that we keep our schools and offices healthy, comfortable environments.

Teaching children about hand hygiene doesn’t have to be another chore or task for busy parents. Creating reward charts is always an excellent way of teaching children to remember important tasks like washing their hands. You could even become creative and make homemade soaps that will excite little ones about a hand washing regime. What’s more, if you have a pet you should be even more regimented about hand hygiene after playing with the pet or picking up its mess. If you would like to know more about keeping your family safe and healthy then please have a look at our Family Safety Guide. In this guide we unpack the different ways in which you can ensure that your home is a safe and healthy one for all your family members.

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