Health Officials: Back-to-School Hand-Washing Tips (Infographic)

Is your family settling into back-to-school routines with new classes, teachers and after-school activities? Here’s an extra bit of homework: Teach your kids to keep coughs and sniffles out of the picture with good hygiene and hand-washing, the Florida Department of Health urged families in a news bulletin today.

Whether at home, in school or on the road, your family can take steps to reduce your exposure to germs and bacteria, says Lisa Miller, M.D., a pediatrician affiliated with Baptist Health.

“Regular hand-washing is an easy and effective way to prevent the spread of contagious diseases,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “We all help to protect Florida’s children, adults and families from infectious illness every time we wash our hands.”

Good attendance during the school year is linked to proper hand-washing practices, by preventing a number of easily transmitted diseases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Viruses and bacteria can live for several hours on hard surfaces like cafeteria tables, telephone receivers, computer keyboards and doorknobs. Cold and flu prevention through hand washing or hand sanitizing can keep you from passing on these common viruses – and picking up viruses on surfaces in your environment.

Unfortunately,  many Americans – up to a third or more in some studies – don’t wash their hands before leaving the restroom, the CDC says.

People also forget to wash their hands before preparing meals. They also grab snacks without thinking about washing their hands.

A study released by a team from Michigan State University found that just 5 percent of people washed their hands for 15 seconds or longer.

The CDC recommends that you wash your hands vigorously using soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds, or the time it normally takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. On average, however, bathroom users only washed their hands for 6 seconds, the study found.

Here are the CDC’s hand-washing guidelines:
  • Wet hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to get the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.|
    –Source: CDC

The CDC also recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60 percent alcohol, especially if soap and water are unavailable. There are many brands of hand cleaners, but read the labels carefully to see if they contain sufficient alcohol, the CDC says.

Preventive Measures

According to the Florida Department of Health, here are other preventive measures that can be taken:

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow.
  • Avoid sharing cups and eating utensils.
  • Refrain from kissing those with symptoms.
  • Frequently clean potentially contaminated surfaces (doorknobs, countertops, tables, toys, etc.) using a bleach solution (1 part bleach and 9 parts water).
Call the doctor if you or your child has any of these symptoms:
  • Wheezing.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • High fever with ill appearance.
  • Thick nasal discharge.
  • Signs of dehydration.


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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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