Why Parents Should Teach Children to Wash Their Hands [VIDEO]

Boys washing hands

Teaching children to wash their hands often will keep them happy and healthy. (Photo by WoodleyWonderWorks, Flickr)

During cold and flu season, every teacher and family I know with young children gets sick. It seems inevitable. Some pestilence or another sweeps through schools and households like one of the plagues of Egypt, and both educators and parents are left wondering what they can possibly do to keep well. The answer is simple: teach children to wash their hands. 

Why is hand washing so important?

Around the world about 1.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, reports the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group of WHO and UNICEF in The Lancet. Sadly, it wouldn’t take much to drastically reduce these horrifying numbers.


Bacteria, viruses and germs are everywhere. Regular hand washing protects things like Salmonella from spreading. (Photo by Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that countless lives could be saved if children simply washed their hands regularly with soap because doing so protects kids who come in contact with these epidemics. Not only that, but hand washing also keeps children healthy and in school.

The other thing to remember is that germs are everywhere. A report published by the US National Library of Medicine found that human and animal feces is loaded with germs like Salmonella, E.coli, and norovirus that causes diarrhea and spreads respiratory infections. Did you know that a single gram of human feces carries a trillion germs? Think about that the next time you see someone fail to wash their hands as they leave the lavatory!

Unfortunately, the restroom isn’t the only place we come in contact with all these nasty little germs. They appear on raw meat, which harbor invisible amounts of animal poop on them and can be transferred to foods we eat or drink where they can grow and multiply. Also, germs are exchanged when we touch something someone else touched, sneezed or coughed on, such as handrails, table tops, toys, etc. And when we fail to wash our hands, we become host to all those germs we collect throughout the day.

When should hands be washed?

After reading about all the germs that are lingering out there ready to pounce, you might consider ordering hand sanitizer or soap by the case, thinking you should wash every 10 minutes or so to prevent infection. But that would be overkill and isn’t advised either.

Samer Blackmon, MD, an internal medicine specialist at Piedmont Healthcare in Georgia says that overwashing can actually make us sick. Why? It can cause us to “eliminate the bacteria that helps build up your immune system, allowing antibiotic-resistant bugs to enter your system and make you very sick.”

Global Handwashing Day

Students at the Teresa Gonzales de Fanning School in Lima, Peru wash their hands during Global Handwashing Day. (Photo by Ana Cecilia-Gonzales-Virgil, World Bank)

Overwashing can also lead to an increased tendency for children to develop other problems later in life, such as allergies, asthma, and other autoimmune diseases. So back off mom and dad! Rein in your OCD and find a sense of balance when it comes to enforcing hand washing.

To help you know when hand washing is appropriate, here’s a helpful list the Health Promotion Board put together to help children keep their health as well as their sanity.

Wash Hands Before and After

  • Handling or preparing food
  • Meals
  • Caring for someone who is sick
  • Feeding a child
  • Treating a cut
  • Giving medicine

Wash Hands After

  • Using the restroom
  • Wiping or blowing your nose
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Changing diapers
  • Touching common surfaces such as elevator buttons, doorknobs, handles, table tops
  • Touching garbage or something dirty
  • Playing with or touching pets

The right way to wash your hands

Both adults and children need to remember that there is actually a right and wrong way to wash hands. This task doesn’t have to be done under scalding hot water. If it were painful, we would never get children to wash! Warm or cold water works just as well. However, it is important to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails with soap for at least 20 seconds. Finish by rinsing your hands under clean water and drying them with a clean towel or air drying them.


About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

One Response to Why Parents Should Teach Children to Wash Their Hands [VIDEO]

  1. Jathan Fink says:

    Reblogged this on Jadeworks Entertainment and commented:

    If you and your family aren’t fastidious about washing your hands, especially during cold and flu season, you’re simply begging to get sick. Read this insightful article and your family will soon be on its way to better health. The facts will stun you!

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