We all know that germs lurk everywhere and germs can spread rapidly in children, triggering a pandemic flu, colds and other dreadful diseases such as the Hand, Foot, Mouth Disease (HFMD). But the greatest places that kids get exposed to germs may surprise you.
TOP 5 GERMIEST PLACES FOR KIDS
1. Children’s Playgrounds (Indoor and Outdoor)
Playgrounds are germ minefields. Kids touch everything they see and often put them in their mouths. Practically every child gets some germs all over his hands after playing on the playground. That’s because they spent time playing on the monkey bars, holding the chains of swing sets, and hand rails of slides. Since kids don’t always follow strict hygiene practices (especially at playground toilets when they are in a hurry to get back to play), germs resulting from improper hygiene after using the bathroom may be in especially high abundance. Ewww!
2. Shopping Carts
Shopping cart handles are another hot breeding ground for infectious viruses and germs. Customers may sneeze, wipe their noses, then touch the cart handles. Cart handles are also contaminated by kids’ dirty hands and by leaky meat packages that you toss into your cart. About 70% of the shopping carts tested in America had E. coli. I suspect the results for a highly dense city like Singapore might be the same, if not higher.
3. Elevator Buttons and Escalator Handles
The sheer volume of people who touch elevator buttons and escalator handles makes it a bacteria hot spot. Bacteria and germs can survive up to two hours on these surfaces before they find their next victims. Somehow, kids are drawn to elevator buttons and escalator handles despite mommy’s best efforts (i.e.nagging) not to touch them.
4. Public Libraries
Libraries appear to be tidy, sterile places, but they crawl with as many germs as a fast-food restaurant. Why so filthy? Think of the number of little kids (and adults) with drippy nose, chesty coughs happily shuffling and browsing books, using the computers, touching the furniture, shelves, counter-tops and you’ll get the picture.
5. Schools and Childcare Centres
Kids spend more time at school than they do at home. Gather a group of kids together and you can bet that they will share more than toys. Surfaces or contact points are hot spots: Common toilets, taps, toys, storybooks, stationeries and play tables. Common ailments picked up by school-going kids include diarrhea, food poisoning, chicken pox, common colds, seasonal flu and HFMD.These ailments threaten the physical and mental well-being of our children and turn them into whiny, clingy, grumpy monsters.
In the first half of 2012 alone, an alarming number of HFMD cases was recorded in Singapore. Compared to approx 21,000 cases last year, there was already 32,000 reported cases of HFMD for the year-to-date. Dana’s preschool has been ordered a to shut down for a mandatory 2-week period twice this year. A family friend of ours had their lives turned topsy-turvey last month after all the family members (both their kids and both parents) fell prey to HFMD one after another. It was an awful and difficult experience which no family should be subjected to.
KIDS ARE GERMS VACUUMS
As parents, we frown upon these common kid behaviours: picking their noses, biting their nails, putting fingers in their mouths or wiping runny noses with their hands. These habits invite germs and have been proven to be one of the fastest ways to spread infectious diseases. Since we can’t realistically protect our kids from exposure to germs, what we can do is to teach them to do a thorough job of handwashing as a first line of defence.
In a recent Child Health Intelligence & Performance (CHIP) Study, it was noted that those who fall sick less frequently and go to school regularly are likely to do much better in exams. They may not only be at an advantage in terms of learning and knowledge but also in terms of cognitive development.
Backed by research findings, the Singapore Health Promotion Board (HPB) and Dettol have teamed up since 2010 to to cultivate good hand hygiene habits to some 25,000 students in schools. Students attended quick lessons on the eight steps of hand washing and received goodie bags filled with posters, activity booklets and soap.
HOW TO PROTECT OUR KIDS (A-B-Cs):
A. Actively Wash our Hands in 8 Simple Steps
We should encourage and enforce proper hand-washing before every meal, after using the bathroom, and after sneezing, coughing, or blowing nose. Dettol has summarised the 8 steps to a proper handwash in this poster. We actually printed it out and pasted onto our bathroom mirror to guide Dana along. It proved to be really effective!
Since majority of kids are kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic learners, we’ve put together a short video to guide them how to wash their hands properly! We believe that young children are very receptive to peer influences so by educating them on the proper handwashing techniques, they can in turn spread this good habit to their siblings and friends!
Turn up your volume and enjoy the video!
B. Bedtime Stories
All children love a good story (actually adults too). There’s a wealth of resources out there which parents can use to discuss the importance of personal hygiene and to reiterate the benefits of proper handwashing with their kids. We’ve compiled a list of interesting titles here for younger kids:
1. WASH YOUR HANDS! (Little Princess Books) by Tony Ross
2. GERMS ARE NOT FOR SHARING (Best Behavior Series) by Elizabeth Verdick
3. WHY I SNEEZE, SHIVER, HICCUP & YAWN (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Melvin Berger
4. GERMS MAKE ME SICK! (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Melvin Berger
5. OH THE THINGS YOU CAN DO THAT ARE GOOD FOR YOU! All About Staying Healthy (Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library) by Tish Rabe
6. SID THE SCIENCE KID: THE TROUBLE WITH GERMS (I Can Read Book 1) by Jennifer Frantz (Author)
C. Carry out these Tips for a Germ-Free Year
National Geographic Kids has a List of 20 Easy to Remember Tips for a healthy school year. They are practical and simple enough for young children to follow.
So there you have it – protecting your children from germs is as simple as A-B-Cs. We hope this post has been beneficial and you’ll do your part to pass on these tips to your children at home. Remember, Clean Hands = Healthy Kids = Happy Family!