Parents do all they can to protect a child against illness and infection. With infecting microorganisms lurking everywhere, parents are understandably cautious. Well-baby check-ups and vaccinations are definitely essential in preventing illnesses in children. However, parents should also remember that the most basic things can be very helpful too.

Hand washing is a very important practice, but a lot of people just take it for granted. Hand washing should be practiced by the entire family because it is actually the first line of defense against many infections. Throughout the day, your entire family may be accumulating germs from the many places they’ve been. The germs in your hands have the potential to enter your body, and cause infection. Aside from that, germs can also spread easily to other members of your family. By simply touching your child, or by touching common surfaces that they touch, you can spread these unwanted germs.

The common infectious diseases that are transmitted by hand-to-hand contact include colds, flu, and several other gastrointestinal disorders. Aside from these, it can also contribute to food-related illnesses, which may be caused by salmonella or E. coli. While others only experience common symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, some cases can be severe, which can even result to death.

In order to develop proper hand washing habits for the entire family, you need to practice it at home, so that kids can carry on the practice even at school. Demonstrate the proper way to wash hands, and emphasize that it should last for 15 to 20 seconds. This is actually equivalent to two “Happy birthday” songs. There is also a need to show your child, how to clean areas between fingers, under the nails, and wrists. Make it a fun activity at home, and try to do the practice together with your child.

You may also let your older child bring an alcohol-based sanitizer at school. This is the best alternative to hand washing in terms of sanitizing. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you choose products, which contain at least 60 percent alcohol. Sanitizers are also gentler on hands because it has ingredients, which prevent skin dryness. When using a sanitizer, it is essential that all the surfaces of the hands are covered, and rubbing should not end until the hands are already dry.

Keeping your hands germ free is definitely not possible, but hand washing can greatly control the spread of germs. It is crucial that hand washing is done after using the toilet, or after handling soiled diapers. Parents should also emphasize that kids wash their hands after handling pets. To prevent food-borne illnesses, hand washing should be observed before and after food preparation. It is also very important to wash hands before eating.

Parents also need to take steps in ensuring that a child’s school is promoting healthy habits. Check the facility’s hand washing policy, and confirm whether kids have easy access to sinks. Studies have shown that hand washing programs in child care facilities, have reduced the spread of infections during peak seasons for cold and flu.

In promoting health for the entire family, hand washing should be among the top things that need to be practiced. After all, it is such a simple but effective way in preventing infection in adults and children alike.