Handwashing is for life, not just for crisis

Handwashing is for life, not just for crisis

The current media onslaught surrounding the high profile H1N1 flu strain may in a positive way help to re-emphasise the priority of handwashing and hygiene within the pre-school environment. All children should be taught to wash their hands properly but as important is when to wash their hands properly! The danger is that we create a generation of compulsive obsessive children who wash their hands at every turn and never experience the joy of digging in the garden for worms or the delight of eating finger food – hopefully they do not confuse the two but nevertheless children will be children.

It is a concern that protective parents over-react to the current situation, which may, in turn, create paranoia on a grand scale. Or that unknowingly, by letting very young children watch the news, they form ideas within their own mind that could create undue worry especially with regard to eating pork or travelling. Children need to be reassured that they and their family are not at risk.

Ways to improve hygiene in the nursery

There are some simple things that you can do to make handwashing easy for children.

· Don’t use antibacterial soap – where soap is left on the skin in a diluted form there is most likely to be bacteria too. This increases the odds of developing resistant strains.

· Use foaming soap – making handwashing fun is half the battle. Foaming soaps spread easier across the skin covering a much larger surface area much quicker and it uses up to 90% less soap per dose of liquid soap so it saves you money!

Hand Sanitisers – to use or not to use?

In the preschool environment, alcohol hand gels can give a false sense of security – they are not as good as soap and water. They certainly can be used as a back up when you have a mild outbreak of something in the nursery, or you are out on a field trip where soap and water might either not be available or ‘a bit iffy’. Remember that alcohol gels do not kill ‘everything’ i.e. norovirus. Alcohol gels dissipate very quickly so they need to be used frequently, the alcohol can dry the skin so are unsuitable for eczema sufferers or dry skin conditions. Look for polymer-based hand sanitisers, these will contain ultra-low amounts or no alcohol and will last on the skin a lot longer.

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