University of Illinois Extension
Skipnavigation Nibbles ... Ideas for Families

Kids & Food
Help Your Child Succeed
Your Child's Health
Challenges of Parenting
Learning to Get Along
Playtime Is Fun Time
The Day Care Routine

Wash Those Hands

Dealing with childhood illnesses is not fun, especially when they spread from one family member to another.

Although it is not possible to avoid the spread of all contagious diseases, one simple hygiene practice can reduce the spread of illnesses in your home. That simple practice is proper hand washing.

Hand washing will help control the spread of upper respiratory infections like colds or flu, and intestinal infections.

When to wash
Everyday, several times a day, is the time to wash your hands. Obviously, you should wash your hands whenever they are dirty. But in particular, here are a few specific times when family members should wash their hands.

Children should wash their hands:

  • before eating, drinking, or snacking
  • after using the toilet
  • after playing outdoors
  • after playing with pets
  • after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their noses

Parents should wash their hands:

  • before preparing, serving food, or eating food
  • after caring for a sick child (blowing their noses or wiping eyes
  • after diapering a child
  • after cleaning up a mess
  • after helping a child with toileting
  • after cleaning up spills
  • after other cleaning activities
  • after smoking
How to wash
Parents can teach their children to keep their hands clean by practicing these four simple steps:
  • wet hands with warm running water
  • add soap to hands making a soapy lather for 20 seconds (sing a song) and wash the fronts and backs of hands, wrists, between fingers, and under the fingernails
  • rinse hands with warm running water
  • dry hands thoroughly with a clean towel

Have you washed your hands?
Parents may hear themselves repeat many times in a day, "Have you washed your hands?" It makes good healthy sense to encourage your children at a young age to wash their hands.