Hand Hygiene

Hand Hygiene for Children 

Hand hygiene and children

Hand Hygiene- Proper Techniques

Using hand sanitizer

Washing a young child's hands

Using hand sanitizer with a young child

Hand Hygiene- Frequently Asked Questions

Hand Hygiene and Children

Everyone knows how bad it feels to be sick. Being sick can make children miss school and fun activities. Parents may also have to miss work when children are sick.

Keeping children's hands clean is the best way to keep them from getting sick and spreading germs. Babies and young children frequently place their hands in their mouths, making it more likely to spread germs that cause illness.

Follow these tips to help prevent the spread of germs:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds.
  • Wash your hands:

    • After using the washroom.
    • Changing a baby's diaper.
    • Touching animals.
    • Before eating.
    • Before and after preparing food.
    • When your hands look dirty.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you can't wash your hands.

    • Use a squirt the size of a quarter (dime-size for young children) in your palm.
    • Rub palms together.
    • Rub the back of each hand and around each thumb.
    • Don't forget your fingertips.
    • Rub for at least 15 seconds until dry.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper arm, not your hands! Throw the tissue away and wash your hands right away.
  • Keep your hands away from your face to help keep germs out of your body.
  • Stay home when you are sick, have a cough or a fever.

Important times children should be washing their hands:

  • After going to the washroom.
  • Before handling food.
  • Before and after eating.
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose.
  • After playing with shared toys. 
  • After touching animals.

Hand Hygiene- Proper Techniques

Washing your hands

  1. Wet hands under running water.
  2. Apply liquid soap.
  3. Lather and rub hands for at least 15 seconds. 
  4. Rinse hands. 
  5. Towel or air dry hands.
  6. Turn taps off with a towel or your sleeve.

Using hand sanitizer

  1. Place a quarter-size drop of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your palm.
  2. Rub hands together, palm to palm.
  3. Rub back of each hand with palm and fingers of the other hand.
  4. Rub around each thumb.
  5. Rub fingertips of each hand back and forth in the other hand.
  6. Rub until your hands are dry (at least 15 seconds).

Washing a young child's hands

  1. Wet a paper towel with water and a small amount of liquid soap.
  2. Rub child's hands for 15 seconds.
  3. Rinse under running water.
  4. Dry hands with a paper towel.

Using hand sanitizer with a young child

  1. Clean your hands first using the method above.
  2. Place a dime size drop of hand sanitizer on your own hands.
  3. Rub child's hands until dry (at least 15 seconds).

Hand Hygiene- Frequently Asked Questions

What is 'Healthy hand hygiene'?

Healthy hand hygiene refers to all actions that help to reduce the spread of germs that can cause illness. This includes:

  • Hand washing.
  • Using hand sanitizer.
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or upper arm (not hands).
  • Being aware of germs living on surfaces.
  • Keeping hands away from the face to keep germs away from the body.

Why is liquid soap recommended over bar soap for hand washing?

It is important to use soap when washing hands. However, liquid soap is recommended because it has less risk of being contaminated with germs than bar soap does. Bar soap can dry out and crack which can create spaces where germs can grow. If this happens, change the bar of soap. Bar soap is okay to use at home, but should be kept on a soap rack that drains the water away to prevent the soap from sitting in water.

Do alcohol-based hand sanitizers replace handwashing?

No. Both get rid of germs on the hands, but in different ways. Hand washing is the first and most important step to clean the hands, especially after using the washroom or if hands are visibly dirty. Washing hands with soap and water pills dirt and germs away from your skin and washes it away. Hand sanitizers are to be used as an add-on to regular, effective handwashing, when water is not available or when hands are not visibly dirty.

How do I use alcohol-based hand sanitizers?

Any visible dirt should be washed away with soap and water. Make sure hands are dry. Water on the hands will water down the alcohol content; this will make it less effective in removing germs. Apply sanitizer about the size of a dime onto your hands, and rub all over both hands for about 15 seconds, or until dry.

Are alcohol based hand sanitizers safe to use?

If used correctly- that is after rubbing hands for 15 seconds- the alcohol content of the product completely evaporates so there is no residue left on the hands. Children can safely touch their mouth and eyes when the product has evaporated from the hands. Young children should supervised while using hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizers should not be swallowed.

Are alcohol based hand sanitizers safe for use with babies?

These products are not recommended for use on babies' skin since it can be very sensitive. When used by children under 6 years old- supervision is recommended. Parents can speak with their child's doctor when deciding if a child is old enough to use hand sanitizers.

Will alcohol based hand sanitizers remove food residues that can cause an allergic reaction (like nut products, shellfish and others)

No. Hand sanitizers do not remove all food residues and should not be relied on to remove them. The best way to remove food residue is to use soap and water to wash the hands

Can hand cleaning cause dry skin?

Drying of the skin can happen with both frequent hand washing with soap and water and frequent use of hand sanitizers. Some hand sanitizers have extra ingredients to help keep skin soft and moisturized.

What are some common mistakes when hand washing?

  • Sharing cloths: Don't use one damp cloth to wash a group of children's hands- this can allow the spread of germs from one child to another.
  • Standing water: Don't use a common standing bowl of water to rinse hands- this can allow transfer of germs.
  • Not washing hand towels enough: Make sure you regularly wash hand towels- shared hand towels can transfer germs.
  • Not washing hands for the proper amount of time: hands are to be washed, all over, back and front for at least 15 seconds to remove dirt and germs effectively.

Do you have more questions about parenting?

  • Connect with a registered nurse from Health811 for free, secure, and confidential health advice. Service is available 24/7 in English and French, with translation support also offered in other languages. Call 8-1-1 or visit Health811.ontario.ca.
  • Connect with a Community Navigator from 2-1-1 for information about community programs and resources across Eastern Ontario. Helpline service is available 24/7 and in many different languages. Call 2-1-1 or visit 211ontario.ca.
  • Connect with a Public Health Nurse and other parents on the Parenting in Ottawa Facebook page.
  • There are a variety of services to make it easier for your child to grow up healthy in Ottawa.
  • You can update your child's immunization record using either the CANImmunize App or the Immunization Connect Ontario (ICON) Tool
  • If you have received a message from Ottawa Public Health such as a letter or a call regarding immunization, an infectious disease, or infection control lapse, please call 613-580-6744 and listen to the menu options carefully.

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