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How to Boost Hand Hygiene in Schools

Hand hygiene is one of the easiest and most effective ways to minimize germ transmission in schools. Most high school and college students know how to properly wash their hands, but younger children need some extra training to maintain clean hands. Here is a quick guide to help you boost hand hygiene in your school so everyone can stay a little healthier throughout the year.

When Should Students Wash Their Hands?

There is no such thing as "overwashing" when it comes to hand hygiene, so don’t be afraid to ask your students to wash their hands on a frequent basis. The most important times for hand washing include:

•    Before and After Meal Times
•    After Using the Restroom
•    After Blowing Their Noses, Coughing or Sneezing
•    After Touching Garbage
•    After Playing Outside

As a teacher or other school worker, you should wash your hands after dealing with a sick child or treating a cut or wound. If you prepare snacks for your classroom or work in the cafeteria. Make sure you wash your hands before and after preparing food.

What’s the Right Way to Wash Hands?

There are several ways to wash hands, but the best method is to use hot or warm running water with sanitizing soap. Ask your students to follow these steps:
1.    Rinse the hands first to get them wet.
2.    Apply a dime to nickel sized drop of soap to the middle of one hand.
3.    Rub the hands together to form a lather. Scrub the hands down for approximately 20 seconds, getting in between the fingers, underneath the fingernails, and everywhere in between. Hint: Have your students sing the alphabet or practice counting to 20 during this time to make sure they wash for the full 20 seconds.
4.    Rinse the hands off with running water to get all the soap off.
5.    Use a clean paper towel to get the water off. Avoid air dryers, as those actually spread more germs than they help get rid of.

If you do not have access to running water and soap, you can use hand sanitizer to get rid of germs in the meantime. Keep several hand sanitizer dispensers around your classroom so your students can keep their hands clean throughout the day. Younger children may prefer foam sanitizers over liquid because it is easier to spread around. Ask your students to rub the sanitizer around for 20-30 seconds to make sure it covers the hands properly.

How to Encourage Students to Keep Their Hands Clean

Have a few students who don’t want to clean their hands? Perhaps you need a rewards system to get them on track with the rest of the class. Give out gold stars, bonus points, "green cards" (instead of red or yellow cards), or anything else your students will respond to. The stubborn hand washers may be encouraged when they see other students getting rewarded for washing their hands. Be patient, and explain just how important hand hygiene is for your students as a whole. Together, you can keep your class clean and your students in school throughout the year.

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