Everyone talks about the importance of washing one's hands to prevent infections. What is the right way to wash one's hands and to use alcohol-based sanitizers?
The best thing you can do to keep your baby safe and healthy -- especially during cold and flu season -- is to wash your hands. Your baby's immune system is not as strong as yours, making him/her more susceptible to viruses and infections. And if your baby was premature, he/she might have a harder time fighting off germs.
You may have noticed that antibacterial soaps have become quite popular in the last several years; however, these soaps are no more effective at protecting you from illnesses than regular soap. Using antibacterial soaps may in fact lead to the development of bacteria that is resistant to the soap's antibacterial properties, which may make it harder to kill these germs in the future. The best way to protect yourself and your baby is by using regular soap.
It is critical that everyone washes his/her hands with soap and water before holding or playing with your baby, especially after:
- Changing a diaper
- Using the bathroom
- Touching an animal or animal waste
- Blowing his/her nose, coughing or sneezing
- Handling garbage
- Using public restrooms
And before and after:
- Treating wounds and cuts
- Preparing food, especially when handling raw meat, poultry or fish
When your child is old enough, it's important that he/she learns proper hand-washing techniques. Teach him/her by example and wash your hands with your child. Place your child's hands under the water and lather his/her hands with soap and gently scrub his/her fingers, back of the hands and wrists for at least twenty seconds (the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice). Sing a song such as the ABCs, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" or "Happy Birthday" to ensure that your child doesn't rush the hand-washing process. Dry your child's hands with a paper or cloth towel.
If you don't have access to soap and water, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It is recommended that if it is used on children under age 6, it should always be under supervision. Use a small amount, and make sure -- especially with young children -- that it dries completely so they do not ingest it.
As always, if you're unsure which soaps are best for your baby, ask your doctor.