Current Environment:

Handwashing: A Powerful Antidote to Illness

All day long, your child is exposed to bacteria and viruses—when touching a playmate, sharing toys, or petting the cat. Once their hands pick up these germs, they can quickly infect themselves by touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

Get your child into the habit of washing their hands as early as possible. Encourage your child to wash their hands not only at home, but also at school, at friends’ homes and everywhere else.

When to Wash:

  • Before eating (including snacks)
  • After a trip to the bathroom
  • Whenever they come in from playing outdoors
  • After touching an animal like a family pet
  • After sneezing or coughing if they cover their mouth
  • When someone in the household is ill

How to Wash:

  • Wet your child’s hands
  • Apply clean bar soap or liquid soap.
  • Rub hands vigorously together for 20 seconds (Make sure to scrub every surface completely!)
  • Rinse the hands off
  • Pat the hands dry

Antibacterial Soaps

Drugstore shelves are full of trendy antibacterial soaps, but studies have shown that these antibacterial products are no better at washing away dirt and germs than regular soap. Some infectious disease experts have even suggested that by using antibacterial soaps, you may actually kill off normal bacteria and increase the chances that resistant bacteria may grow.

The best solution is to wash your child’s hands with warm water and ordinary soap that does not contain antibacterial substances (eg, triclosan). Regular use of soap and water is better than using waterless (and often alcohol-based) soaps, gels, rinses, and hand sanitizer rubs when your child’s hands are visibly dirty (and with children, there usually is dirt on the hands!). However, when there is no sink available (eg, the car), hand rubs can be a useful alternative.


Source Immunizations & Infectious Diseases: An Informed Parent's Guide (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics)

The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.