If you had a nickel for every time you told your children to wash their hands, you’d be rich, right? Think you’re wasting your breath? Consider these statistics from Blue Cross/Blue Shield:
- Nearly 189 million school days are missed every year due to the common cold.
- 126 million work days are missed annually by parents who must stay home to care for their school-aged children suffering from colds.
- 70 million work days are lost each year by workers who themselves come down with a cold.
- The overall economic impact of colds in the U.S. is estimated to be nearly $40 billion a year.
Good hygiene is one of the simplest ways your child can prevent the spread of germs. And with flu season on the horizon, there’s no better time to review steps that can prevent the spread of colds and flu.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Cover your mouth with a tissue if you sneeze or cough. If you don’t have one available, sneeze into your shoulder or elbow – not your hands!
- Wash your hands often, and especially after coughing or sneezing. Use warm water and soap.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes, one of the common ways in which germs can spread.
- Stay home if you or your child is sick and for at least 24 hours after you are fever-free without a fever-reducing medicine.
- Limit contact with others while you have flu-like symptoms.
- Get vaccinated. CDC recommends a yearly vaccine to protect against flu viruses for everyone 6 months and older.
Helping your child develop a hand-washing habit takes time and persistence. Here’s what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends for proper hand washing:
- Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
- Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.
When should hands be washed? The CDC says:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After touching garbage
Your child can prevent the spread of germs with frequent and proper hand-washing – so tell them to grab the soap and start singing (“Happy Birthday,” of course!) their way to good health.
- Center for Disease Control Prevention, “Seasonal Influenza.” www.cdc.gov/flu
- For hand washing tips: KidsHealth.org, “Handwashing Tips.” http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_body/skin_stuff/handwashing.html
- Livestrong.com: “Handwashing Tips.” www.livestrong.com
- For some handy printouts to remind your family about handwashing: www.capbluecross.com
- Blue Cross/Blue Shield lists additional information on the study referenced above in “Todays’ Healthcare Costs.” www.bcbsri.com