Parents, arm your kids against Covid-19 with good handwashing habits

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What's the best thing you can teach your kid as the new coronavirus races around the globe? Proper handwashing habits, a leading paediatricians' group says.

As early in life as possible, you should get your children into the habit of washing their hands often and thoroughly, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends. All day long, children are exposed to bacteria and viruses when they touch a playmate, share toys or pet animals.

Once their hands pick up germs, children can quickly infect themselves by rubbing their eyes, touching their nose, or placing their fingers in their mouth.

Handwashing can stop the spread of infection, and children should be encouraged to wash their hands throughout the day, the AAP advises.

Avoid antibacterial soaps

Help or remind children to wash their hands: before eating (including snacks); after using the bathroom; coming in from playing outdoors; touching a family pet or other animals; after sneezing or coughing if they cover their mouth; and when someone else in the home is ill.

It's also important to wash hands properly.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following steps: wet hands; apply clean bar soap or liquid soap to the hands; rub hands vigorously together and scrub every surface completely; keep rubbing and scrubbing for 20 seconds; rinse hands completely and then dry them.

While there are many antibacterial soaps, studies show that they are no better than regular soap, and some experts believe that antibacterial soaps may kill off normal bacteria and increase the chances that resistant bacteria may grow, the AAP noted in a news release.

It's best to wash your child's hands with warm water and ordinary soap that does not contain antibacterial substances, such as triclosan. Regular use of soap and water is better than using waterless (and often alcohol-based) soaps, gels, rinses and hand rubs when your child's hands are visibly dirty.

However, when there is no sink available, hand rubs can be a useful alternative, according to the AAP.

Image credit: iStock

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