This year, nearly 60 million students will enroll in elementary and secondary schools in the United States – and approximately 24,000 of those are in Rapides Parish! With cold and flu season on the horizon, Rapides Women’s and Children’s Hospital staff encourage parents to teach their children to wash their hands properly before school starts.

“Washing hands is easy to get the hang of, but not as simple as people might thing,” said Pediatrician Marcia Mitchell, M.D. “There actually is a right way to wash your hands, and your kids need to know that, too.”

It may seem like a chore, but effective hand-washing is the easiest way to prevent the spread of disease and infection. This is especially important in places like school where children regularly come in close contact with one another. Studies have shown that some of the germiest places in schools – in descending order - are water fountain spigots, reusable cafeteria trays, sink faucets, computer keyboards, toilet seats and your child’s hands.

Children are also more susceptible to those germs because their immune systems are less mature than an adult’s immune system. Put all of that together, and it’s no surprise that the average American child has 6-10 colds each year. The good news is that handwashing isn’t hard. From start to finish, a good handwashing can take less than 30 seconds.

“The best way to wash your hands is with soap and warm water, scrubbing your hands together for 20 seconds or more, lightly scratching your nails on each palm in the soapy water to get germs out from under the nails themselves, and rinsing clean,” said Melissa Bordelon, CPNP-AC, from Rapides Women’s and Children’s Hospital Pediatric Unit. “It’s a good idea to use your towel to turn off the faucet and open the door after, if you can.”

Rapides Women’s and Children’s Hospital offers these tips to keep hands clean all year long:

  • Teach children to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while they wash their hands to be sure they wash them for the right length of time.
  • It is the soap combined with a scrubbing action that dislodges dirt and germs.
  • Use a paper towel or your sleeve to turn off the faucet and open the door.
  • Add bottles of hand sanitizer to your car, purse or bag as a second option for when soap and water aren’t available.

Remember, washing your hands isn’t enough to stay healthy. Sleep, eating a good breakfast and regular exercise are always key elements to a healthy lifestyle, no matter what your age.