Back to School Hand Washing Reminders

by Lawton Brothers | Aug 18, 2016


The school year is getting ready to pick up again here in Florida and helping to keep kids healthy and safe is a top priority every year. It’s estimated that 32 million school days are missed every year because of the flu and as much as 180 million days are missed due to the common cold. One of the most important things students can do to avoid getting sick is properly wash their hands. One method used to help schools and custodial staff to promote better hygiene habits is known as the S.A.F.E. approach. This approach addresses what custodians can do to promote the best hand washing habits and help decrease sick days. The S.A.F.E. approach:

S - Sanitizers

A recent study of school-age children found that hand washing combined with using sanitizer helps to reduce missed school days from infectious illness by 43 percent. Having hand sanitizing stations throughout the school can be a helpful supplement to hand washing. There’s plenty of sanitizers available on the market, but non-alcohol based sanitizers are much safer for schools than alcohol based products.

A - Allergen-Free

There are many kids who have allergies to certain products and chemicals, so avoid using hand soaps that contain allergens. Hand soaps that don’t contain any dyes, fragrances, parabens, sulfates, and peanut or tree nut ingredients are much safer for those with allergies. It’s also best to avoid products that contain formaldehyde preservatives.

F - Foam for Fun

Kids tend to love using foaming hand soaps and sanitizers. In one study, researchers found that switching out liquid hand soap for foaming soap in schools increased hand washing by 75 percent. In most dispensers it’s fairly easy for custodians to switch out liquids for foaming products.

E - Explain with Posters or Signage

Studies support that simply having signage in restrooms about hand washing can nearly double hand washing activity and the likelihood that someone will use soap. Custodians can post signs to encourage and explain proper hand washing techniques.

Custodians play a very important role in the health of our school children, but no matter how much they do, it’s critical that people understand how to properly wash their hands and how important it is. A 2013 study found that only 5 percent of people properly wash their hands on a daily basis. The average person touches their face 3.6 times per hour, and with over half of healthy persons carrying Staphylococcus aureus on their nasal passages, throat, hair, or skin, hand washing is crucial to keeping people healthy. By making sure that students and staff are following proper hand washing protocols, you can help stop the spread of germs and protect others from getting sick. Here are some common myths about hand washing:

As long as I use soap it doesn't matter how long I wash my hands. Studies support that to effectively remove germs you need to scrub your hands with soap for a minimum of 15 - 30 seconds. It helps to tell kids to sing the chorus of their favorite song while washing their hands.

Hand sanitizer replaces washing your hands with soap and water. While alcohol-based hand sanitizer can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some cases, washing hands with soap and water is the best and most effective way to reduce the number of microbes and germs on hands. Sanitizers are not as effective as soap and water when it comes to removing dangerous gastrointestinal illness-causing germs.

Hand dryers are more hygienic than paper towels. The Mayo Clinic and University of Westminster conducted a study and found that paper towels are superior to air dryers and can help remove bacteria. Air dryers can actually increase bacterial counts since they’ve been shown to spread bacteria between three to six feet around the device. Paper towels are far less likely to contaminate others in the restroom.  

The hotter the water for hand washing, the better. There’s no research that supports that higher temperatures improve hand washing. Hotter water can actually dry out your skin and making hand washing more painful, which leaves skin more susceptible to germs. Wash your hands with a water temperature that’s comfortable for you.

You don’t have to dry your hands after washing them. Studies have found that germs are more easily transferred between wet hands, so drying your hands is essential to removing bacteria after hand washing.

Teaching kids the importance of hand washing and the correct way to do so will help keep them healthy and in school. Custodians, school staff, and teachers, can all do their part to keep our kids germ free. 

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