The Importance of Teaching Hand Hygiene to Children: A Parent’s Guide

May 24th, 2024 | 11:08 am


One of the most important aspects of staying healthy, especially for children and adolescents, is washing hands. Children must be taught the importance of washing hands as it helps eradicate diseases and germs. Though hand washing with water and soap or using alcohol-based hand rub may appear basic, it may go a long way in improving your health. Since children’s immune system is still developing, they are more prone to infections. Consequently, proper hand hygiene practices have the potential to enhance their overall health once instilled from an early age.

Parents are extremely important in teaching their kids the value of keeping their hands clean. By incorporating regular hand-washing routines into daily life, parents can help children develop lifelong habits that protect them from diseases.  

Why Is Hand Washing So Important?

Hand washing is one of the simplest and most effective preventive measures that can be taken to protect children and their families from diseases. Here are the key reasons why keeping hands clean by washing is so crucial:

  • Prevention of Infections: People come into contact with several bacteria-laden surfaces on a daily basis that are invisible to the human eye. Some infectious diseases that can be prevented by practising good hand hygiene include the common cold, the flu, and digestive disorders. Children should wash their hands to eliminate these harmful germs and minimise their disease risk.
  • Reduction of Absenteeism: Children who wash their hands often are less likely to get sick, which reduces the chances of missing school days and boosts their academic achievement.
  • Promotion of Public Health: Hand washing helps ensure the general health of the population by limiting the transmission of germs and the likelihood of epidemics. Encourage kids to understand that washing their hands is important for maintaining their health, the health of their friends, and the well-being of their neighbourhoods.
  • Enhanced Immune Function: Regular hand washing significantly reduces the exposure to harmful germs and bacteria, decreasing the overall burden on the immune system. This reduction in microbial load allows the immune system to function more effectively and efficiently. By keeping hands clean and free of germs, the immune system may concentrate its efforts on defending the body against additional health risks and preserving general well-being.
  • Reduction of Antibiotic Resistance: Proper and frequent hand washing eradicates germs and diseases thus reducing the overall use of antibiotics. This particularly requires combating antibiotic resistance, which is a growing problem in the scope of public health. Less use and prescription of antibiotics lowers the probability that germs might develop resistance to these drugs.
  • Lower Healthcare Costs: Washing hands can significantly reduce the number of trips to the doctor, prescriptions, and hospitalizations. Not only does this prevent quick susceptibility to infections, but it also goes a long way toward saving more in the long run due to minimised health costs.
  • Development of Good Habits: Establishing the habit of good hand hygiene in kids sets them up for lifelong good health. Parents play a crucial role in safeguarding their health and well-being by teaching youngsters the importance of washing their hands correctly. Devoting time and effort to teaching children the right hand-washing method is, therefore, beneficial for their long-term health and hygiene.

How Do Germs Spread?

Although there are several ways that germs might spread, they mostly do so by direct contact with an infected person or object. Germ-laden respiratory droplets can land on surfaces or enter the airways of others when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. Further transmission of germs occurs when contaminated surfaces are contacted and then the face, particularly the mouth, nose, or eyes, are touched. Indirect contact with infected things, such as toys, cutlery, or doorknobs, can also transfer germs. Inadequate hand hygiene, unsanitary conditions, and intimate contact with contaminated people can all contribute to the spread of germs and subsequent illness within communities.

When Should Hands Be Washed?

Understanding when hand washing is necessary is the first step in maintaining good hand hygiene. Children should be taught to wash their hands at the following times:

  • Before and After Eating: Hand washing before eating keeps bacteria out of the body through the food. It facilitates the removal of microorganisms and food remnants after eating.
  • After Using the Bathroom: Washing your hands is one of the most important ways to prevent the transmission of faecal germs.
  • After Playing Outside: Children who play outside may come into contact with dirt, bacteria, and other pollutants. 
  • After Coughing, Sneezing, or Blowing Nose: Hand washing is crucial after these activities because respiratory droplets have the potential to transmit diseases.
  • After Touching Animals or Pets: Hand cleaning is required after coming into touch with an animal since animals can transmit germs to people.
  • Before and After Visiting a Sick Person: To protect both the sick person and the healthy individual from potential infection transmission.
  • After Touching Common Surfaces in Public Places: Germs thrive on public surfaces, such as elevator buttons, handrails, and doorknobs. 

What are the Steps to Proper Hand Washing?

Rinsing your hands under the faucet is not enough to clean your hands properly. Here’s how you should wash your hands to ensure good hand hygiene:

  1. Use clean, running water to wet your hands. Turn off the tap and apply soap.
  2. Rub the soap between your hands to generate a thick lather. Be careful to cover the entire surface of the hands, including the backs, spaces between the fingers, and areas beneath the nails.
  3. While massaging, circularly move your palms. Kids should be encouraged to recognize that the frothy lather they create indicates that they are effectively washing their hands.
  4. Rub your fingers together and back and forth. Emphasise the need to clean these areas, as bacteria may be hiding there.
  5. Spend at least 20 seconds cleaning your hands. 
  6. Give your hands a thorough rinse under cold, running water, making sure to wash off any soap residue.
  7. Air dry your hands or use a fresh towel. Since moist hands may still harbour some bacteria, it’s critical to thoroughly dry them. Never use a towel that has been shared since it may be contaminated.
  8. Using a paper towel to turn off the tap in a public setting can prevent your hands from becoming contaminated again.


There are several health advantages to teaching kids the value of good hand hygiene, making it a crucial parental duty. Parents may assist their children in forming healthy habits that safeguard both their own and others’ health by teaching them the proper times and techniques for washing their hands. The importance of hand washing cannot be stressed enough, as it plays a crucial role in maintaining public health and preventing the spread of infectious diseases. Parents may make sure their children grow up to be healthier and more resilient by establishing these habits at a young age.

This blog has been verified by Dr. Rentala Naveen, MBBS, MD (Paediatrics), IDPCCM, Paediatric Intensivist and Neonatologist.