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Keeping Kids Safe From Germs

Aug 17, 2007
Germs are invisible and they are just about everywhere. When you or your child touch a doorknob, pick up a book or pet a dog, hands pick up germs.
While some germs have little effect, germs like E.Coli and Salmonella, can make people very sick.

Since we can't tell the good germs from the bad, we all need to wash our hands and ensure that our children wash their hands to protect ourselves.

Parents need to lead by example and remind children to wash hands, especially at the following times:

After using the washroom
After petting an animal
After picking up after the family pet
After changing diapers
Before and after preparing food
Before eating
Before and after brushing your teeth

When returning home after an outing, especially if the visit was to a doctor's office. When using public restrooms for handwashing, try to avoid touching surfaces after washing.

Hands need to be washed more often during the cold and flu season, especially if someone with a cold is around.

In addition to washing hands, it's important that hands be washed thoroughly. Hands should be rubbed at least 15 seconds with soap and water. Attention should also be given to clean under the nails and any rings. Hands should also be dried thoroughly with a clean towel.

While it is not necessary to use anti-bacterial soap, ordinary soap should due, anti-bacterial products do come in handy when soap and water is not available.
It's also important to ensure that where the soap sits is clean. Using bars of soap usually means that a soap dish is nearby. Soap dishes that drain allow the soap to dry and reduce the chance of bacteria growing on the soap. If the soap dish does not have a drain, a regular cleaning is needed. Pump soaps are great at avoiding this and kids love to use them.

Towels also contain germs and it's a great idea to change them daily for heavy use. Hanging them up to dry also reduces the bacteria content of towels.
Children love to put things in their mouth and fingers usually end up in there too. Encourage children at an early age to keep their fingers out of their mouth to reduce germs.

Sometimes lots of handwashing can lead to dry and chapped skin on the hands. These cracks can let germs enter through the skin, but keeping a hand lotion handy near the soap dish/pump and using a small amount after each washing will keep hands looking better.

Of an utmost concerns, especially in terms of petting zoos, is the possibility of the transmission of E. coli, a bacteria that can cause diarrhea (including bloody diarrhea), stomach upset, vomitting, fever and even hospitalization in severe cases.

To reduce the risk of exposure to the E.coli bacteria become aware of which animals pose the greatest risk of transmitting the bacteria - examples include calves, pigs, young poultry, animal feces, raw eggs, raw milk and sick animals. Wash hands immediately after handling, patting or feeding animals and before any food consumption. Carry antibacterial wipes for convenience. If handwashing facilities are used, supervise children under 5 carefully.

Avoid communal basins for handwashing. Supervise young children closely. Children under five are more susceptible to the bacteria. Teach children not to put anything in their mouth during the visit, including fingers, pacifiers that may have fallen on the ground, toys and any animal feed. Never allow the consumption of raw milk. Avoid any food or beverage consumption near any animal interaction areas or prior to washing hands.
About the Author
Joyce Jackson is a safety expert and consultant in northern California. For her latest book and information see Keeping Kids Safe.
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