Let’s face it, being a paediatrician and a mum of three boys, I am surrounded by germs. I basically can’t escape them at home or at work, which is why I have made hand hygiene a huge part of both my home and work life. For some reason, my boys also seem to put their hands in their mouths a lot.
One of the things that I have definitely changed over the last thirteen years of parenting is that I have definitely moved toward more natural, chemical-free methods of illness prevention. My boys know the second they walk in the door their shoes come off and they go to wash their hands. When we are out and about and one of them is suddenly “starving” with no water to wash in sight, I look for other methods of germ prevention, such as natural hand sanitiser. Does natural hand sanitiser actually work? Definitely, if used the right way. Here are some tips for preventing your little one from catching “whatever is going around,” and encouraging good hand hygiene.
- Educate: The importance of good hand hygiene cannot be overly stated. Teach your little one to wash their hands with soap and water and sing the happy birthday song twice while doing so.
- Have a plan for when on the go: While hand washing is best at removing the largest number and largest variety of germs, having soap and water available is not always a reality. When out and about, I do use hand sanitiser with my boys. I choose an organic hand sanitiser that meets the environmental working group standards. This way I know they are not replacing dirty hands with hands filled with potential toxicants. Studies have shown that products with greater than sixty percent alcohol are most effective at reducing germs.When choosing a hand sanitiser, aviod products with triclosan and parabens. In addition, avoid products labeled antibacterial as they may promote antibiotic resistance.
- Practice what you preach: Being a good role model and washing your hands is very important. The whole family can all wash up together when coming in the house and before meals. By making this part of your daily routine and doing it with your child, they are more likely to continue with this practice.
- Make it easy: Make it easy for your little one to wash their hands by keeping a stool near the sink and having hand sanitiser available. My five year old takes hand sanitiser with him to school and camp in his backpack. This way, if he needs to wash his hands but there is no water around, he’s got it readily available to him. We chose a fun looking hand sanitiser together that clipped to the backpack so that I had his buy-in as well. With younger kids, it is important to make sure that hand sanitisers are out of reach as swallowing them can be toxic.
- Read books: Reading to your children is a great way to bond and increase their vocabulary. It’s also a good way to get messages across without being to in your face or making your child feel “forced” to do something. Pick out some age appropriate books about hand washing and germ prevention and incorporate them into your book rotation.
- Make it fun: Rather than battling with your child to wash their hands, try to make it fun. Choose fun coloured soaps. My boys love to use the crayon soaps in the bathtub so they can colour and get squeaky clean all at once.
Even the most diligent mum can’t prevent all illnesses, but a little prevention can go a long way. Making clean hands part of your everyday routine makes it easier and more natural for families. By giving your child choices such as what colour or smell of soap to use, you empower them to become part of the hand-cleaning process and they’ll be less likely to resist your efforts.
More on children’s health:
- How Much Sleep Do Kids Need? A Guide from Newborn to Teens
- What It’s Like Living With a Sleepwalking Child
- Fevers: Everything You Need to Know (+ Myths to Ignore)