Our hands come into contact with an innumerable number of surfaces, which begs the question: how does hand washing protect our loved ones? We’ve looked at how the simple habit of washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer is important, and how it prevents illness-causing germs from harming you and your family.

Babies

If there is a baby or young infant in your household, practising hand hygiene is essential. Babies are particularly vulnerable to falling ill because their immune systems have not yet developed. Washing or sanitizing your hands before picking up your baby (and making sure that other family members or visitors follow suit) will help to protect your little one from harmful germs.

Make sure you wash your hands:

● Before you pick up your baby
● Before you feed them
● Before and after you change their nappy.

Children

Children are also susceptible to illnesses because they are still building up their immune systems. Illnesses such as influenza spread like wildfire when lots of children are in close contact or come into contact with contaminated surfaces at school or creche. Regular hand washing with hygiene soap and water drastically reduces microbial load, which reduces the likelihood of falling ill.

You should encourage your children to always wash their hands:

● Before handling food (at home and at school)
● After playing outdoors
● After using the bathroom
● When they return from school.

Parents

Parents are the primary caregivers, which is why they need to practise hand hygiene. Parents have several responsibilities such as keeping the house sparkling clean, looking after the children and preparing food and meals that will be eaten by the entire family. All these activities have the potential to transfer germs, which is why mom and dad need to keep their hands clean.

Parents should wash their hands:

● Before preparing meals
● After handling raw food
● After performing household chores such as emptying the rubbish bin or wiping kitchen surfaces
● Before and after caring for ill children.

There’s not much that can rival the intimacy offered by family life. But the close contact and sharing of items can transmit germs from one person to the rest of the family. This is why it’s vital for everyone — young and old alike — to play their part. The good news is that practising proper hand hygiene is quite easy. Once everyone knows which activities are most likely to transmit, it’s just a matter of making sure they get into the habit of thoroughly washing their hands whenever they perform their tasks. Once regular hand washing becomes a part of your family’s everyday life, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the risk of harbouring and transmitting illness-causing germs has been drastically reduced.