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The Importance of Hand-Washing

We’ve all been told before that we should wash our hands, but perhaps you didn’t realize just how important it really is.  Did you know that regularly washing your hands helps keep your baby, your whole family, and even your community healthy?  Little kids share and spread germs throughout their communities, but studies have shown that if we all washed our hands at least five times a day we could reduce illness in our community by as much as fifty percent!

In order to get into the habit of washing your hands more regularly throughout the day, make hand-washing an enjoyable experience for yourself. Choose a soap or scent that is pleasing to you and take the time to enjoy a few seconds of running water as an almost meditative experience.  Take a few slow deep breaths, and benefit from a moment of calm in the busyness of the day.  This small act will help to keep you healthy and will serve as a model of good behavior for your children.

To encourage your children to form healthy hand washing habits early on, experts recommend teaching them to associate hand washing with a fun song.  They can sing this song every time they wash their hands to help make it seem like less of a chore.  And it’s important to always insist that visitors coming into your home wash their hands before interacting with your new baby, as her immune system is still developing.  In addition to washing your hands five times a day, it’s important to remember to wash before and after handling and preparing food, after using the bathroom, after changing a diaper, handling garbage, and whenever you are sick.  The American Academy of Pediatrics further recommends that your child wash her hands after coming home from school or playing outside, and playing with a pet.

Dr. Larry Weiss, a physician, hand-washing crusader, and the co-founder of Cleanwell, an all-natural soap company, notes that, “hygiene is personal, health is public.  You cannot be healthy for yourself in an unhealthy community.”  He encourages everyone to wash their hands frequently, and said that he thinks about it in this way, “I care about myself, my family, and my community enough to engage in this little ritual” repeatedly throughout the day.   Dr. Weiss goes so far as to call hand washing a small act of social and public health activism, in which we can all do our part.

Dr. Weiss’ Tips for washing your hands the right way:

  • Find a scent that you like in a natural, organic soap.
  • Wash at least five times a day, and more often as needed.
  • The temperature of the water should be whatever feels comfortable to you.
  • Use enough soap to coat your hands.
  • Wash for about twenty seconds.
  • You must dry your hands afterwards.
  • Wash more frequently around infants, regardless of whether you are changing diapers or simply visiting a friend’s baby.
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