Be hands-on about hygiene
This cold and flu season, your children's health is in their hands
Hand hygiene is important year-round, but it's critical during winter when the spread of virus peaks. Plant the seeds of cleanliness early by modeling proper hand washing for toddlers - 20 seconds of scrubbing from wrists to fingernails does the trick - and making the activity enjoyable by singing a song or having a contest to see who can work up the best lather.
Ensure school-age children know when to wash - before eating and after playing on a playground at recess, using the restroom, and coming into contact wiht friends and classmates. Teach kids that it's important not to chew their fingernails or touch their faces.
"Hand-to-mouth transmission is a major way children are infected by viruses," said Vanessa Charette, M.D., a Cook Children's pediatrician in Fort Worth. "Keeping hands out of the mouth is a difficult behavior for certain children to master, but it's important that they do."
Little hands can pick up a lot of germs. At any given time, you have close to 150 different bacteria living on your hands, and 80 percent of illnesses are spread by direct human contact. For kids, stomach bugs, strep throat and other bacterial illnesses can spread quickly, particularly in environments such as schools and day cares.
"I also tell young children to keep their hands below their neck. They don't rub their eyes, such their fingers or pick their nose," said Kim Mangham, M.D. a Cook Children's pediatrician in Keller. "Kids can have all the germs in the world living on their hands, but they don't put their hands in their mouth, nose or eyes, they won't get sick."
Having trouble convincing your children to get with the hand hygiene program? Let them know that fighting the spread of germs can be pretty cool. A recent study published in the American Journal of Infection Control concluded that fist bumping transmits far few bacteria than handshaking.