Of all the things your family can do to avoid illness, simple handwashing is the most effective — research shows that children who regularly wash their hands miss far fewer schooldays because of disease.

Children come into contact with germs every day that have potential for illnesses. So it is important to teach them a healthy habit of handwashing at an early age to prevent future sicknesses.

How Germs Spread

While the goal is not to scare children, they should learn that:

  • Germs are everywhere
  • Germs are so small that they can’t be seen
  • Germs can make you sick
  • When hands are not washed frequently, germs are picked up from other sources and you can get infected when you touch:
  • Your eyes
  • Your nose
  • Your mouth
  • Germs can also be spread directly to other people or onto surfaces that other people touch

When Should Children Wash Their Hands?

  • Before and after eating
  • After using the toilet or having their diaper changed
  • After playing on the playground
  • After handling pets, pet cages or other pet items
  • After blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing into their hands or a tissue
  • After handling garbage or trash
  • Whenever hands are visibly dirty
  • As often as possible — germs are invisible and are present even when we don’t think they are

How to Wash Your Hands

  1. Wet your hands with warm water.
  2. Apply liquid soap or use a clean bar soap.
  3. Scrub your hands vigorously together and scrub all surfaces — pay special attention to your fingernails and between your fingers, as germs like to hide in these areas. Scrub for about 20 seconds or as long as it takes you to sing the ABC song one time.
  4. Rinse hands well with warm water and dry them with a paper towel.
  5. Use the paper towel to turn the water off.
  6. Throw the paper towel away.

If warm water and soap are not available, an alcohol-based instant hand sanitizer can be used as a substitute to reduce germs on the hands.

St. Joseph’s Contact Information

For more information on children’s health education and other programs at St. Joseph’s Children’s Wellness and Safety Center, please call (813) 615-0589 or visit us at 3001 W. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Tampa, FL 33607.