New campaign for kids is giving hygiene a helping hand

Helen O'Callaghan reports on a HSE hygiene poster campaign

New campaign for kids is giving hygiene a helping hand

Helen O'Callaghan reports on a HSE hygiene poster campaign

WITH bacteria and viruses from hundreds of homes meeting at creches, schools, and day-care centres every day, the HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has developed eye-catching new posters and distributed them to all schools and crèches as part of a resource pack. It’s all about improving respiratory hygiene.

Warning that the 10 best things to spread bugs among children are the 10 fingers on their hands, the HPSC campaign points out that young children are at increased risk for contracting infectious diseases for several reasons: They tend to sneeze and cough into their hands. They’re grouped together and are exposed to many new germs. Their immune systems aren’t fully developed to fight germs and they have germ-spreading personal habits, eg thumb sucking, rubbing eyes, and putting things in their mouths.

The campaign explains that teaching children to sneeze and cough into their arm/elbow is critical to improving respiratory hygiene and in reducing infection-spread. Having access to tissues is also important, so as to teach children: ‘catch it, bin it, kill it.’

Professor Martin Cormican, HSE national lead for infection control, emphasises the importance of children knowing how to wash their hands.

Research shows regular hand hygiene reduces by one-third the number of common infections, like colds, flu and diarrhoea.

With children busy and distracted by many more interesting things than hand-washing, Prof Cormican advises making washing hands fun by singing a song that lasts sufficiently long to get the job done, as well as explaining the importance of hand-washing to older children. “Connect it with what’s important to the child. If they’re into sports and have an important game coming up, explain they’ll be more likely to be in good form to play if they mind their hand hygiene.”

A good way for kids to see the importance of something is to see their parents value it. “It’s not very convincing if parents are saying ‘do it’ but not practising it. A parent doing a token wetting the back of their hand serves no purpose.”

Dr John Cuddihy, interim director at HSE HPSC says good respiratory and hand hygiene can help parents reduce the risk of having to stay home from work due to their child’s or their own illness. “However if you’re sick it’s important to stay home from work or school,” he adds.

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