Don’t make hand hygiene an issue for children

How to cater for all children’s needs to encourage good hand hygiene habits

Don’t make hand hygiene an issue for children

How to cater for all children’s needs to encourage good hand hygiene habits

With an estimated one in every 25 children in England now affected by a neurodevelopmental condition to some degree, a key challenge is that no two children are affected in quite the same way.

The spectrum of conditions means that a whole range of factors can trigger anxiety.  All the senses can be affected but we know that one of the most common factors to impact children will be loud or unexpected noise.

For nursery owners and managers, and other service providers, this has many practical implications, not least when planning arrangements for washrooms. Dryers provide the most hygienic solution for drying hands after washing but the volume of many as they operate can be a potential hazard.

Here we highlight some factors to consider when you are planning any upgrade to or change for washrooms.

Reducing anxiety triggered by noise stimulus

The day we can manufacture a silent dryer will be a day to celebrate.

We cannot do it yet but the day technology can deliver a result for us all will come, we’re sure.  Until then, there are two factors we have to master to get a hand dryer that dries hands as quickly as possible.

Our own machine, Puff the Magic Dryer, will dry hands hygienically in less than 14 seconds, and in the process, it keeps the noise as low as possible as the dryer operates.

There always has to be a compromise between speed and noise. The harder the dryer blows air, the faster the children’s hands will dry. To blow at speed the motor has to work harder and this increases the noise generated as air flows.

Unlike all other dryers the noise level of a Puff remains at a steady 72db when you put your hands under it.  This is about the equivalent of a classroom of chatting children and should minimise any risk of the dryer causing anxiety when it is activated either by a child on the spectrum or when they are in the room washroom.

Visual triggers

From our own research we know that many children quickly come to associate white or metal boxes in washrooms with noise.  In time, simply seeing the box can trigger anxiety as they anticipate it bursting into loud use. That’s why we designed Puff as a dryer that has a friendly character. Children see a ‘friendly face’ in the washroom, not a metal box and that removes any negative association.  The text displayed beside each dryer also explains what is going to happen, which we have discovered can help to reduce or remove the shock.

Creating good habits

Teaching children good hand hygiene is essential.  However, there is a risk of creating OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) if the possible negative impact of not washing your hands is overemphasised.

The solution, our ‘Handwash High 5’ reinforces good practise without overemphasising all the nasty and negative things that could happen if your hands are not washed properly.

The reality is that day to day hand washing is low risk. We need is to reinforce good practice without creating worry or unhelpful practices.