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Promoting Hand Hygiene in Schools: Strategies, Tips, and Decisions

As we return to school, especially during times when hygiene is a significant concern, it’s essential to focus on maintaining good hand hygiene practices to prevent the spread of germs. Here are some tips and ideas to promote hand hygiene in a school setting:

  1. Frequent Handwashing: Encourage students and staff to wash their hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the restroom, before eating, and after coughing or sneezing.
  2. Hand Sanitizer Stations: Set up hand sanitizer stations throughout the school, particularly in high-traffic areas like entrances, cafeterias, and classrooms. Ensure they contain at least 60% alcohol.
  3. Demonstrate Proper Handwashing: Teach students the correct way to wash their hands effectively. Provide visuals or posters near sinks to remind them of the proper steps.
  4. Rewards and Recognition: Implement a system to reward students who consistently practice good hand hygiene. Positive reinforcement can help reinforce the behavior.
  5. Handwashing Songs: Create or use catchy songs that children can sing while washing their hands. This can make the process more fun and help ensure they wash for the recommended duration.
  6. Handwashing Challenges: Organize friendly competitions or challenges among classes or grades to see who can consistently maintain good hand hygiene over a specific period.
  7. Hand Hygiene Education: Incorporate hand hygiene education into the curriculum, explaining the importance of clean hands and how germs spread.
  8. Hand Hygiene Posters: Display colorful and informative posters around the school that emphasize the significance of handwashing and proper hand hygiene techniques.
  9. Handwashing Reminders: Set up regular reminders over the intercom system or through classroom announcements to prompt students and staff to wash their hands.
  10. Hand Hygiene Games: Introduce interactive games or activities that promote the importance of hand hygiene. This could include quizzes, scavenger hunts, or role-playing scenarios.
  11. Teach Cough and Sneeze Etiquette: Educate students on proper cough and sneeze etiquette, emphasizing the importance of using a tissue or their elbow to cover their mouth and nose.
  12. Maintain Clean Facilities: Ensure that handwashing stations, soap dispensers, and hand sanitizer stations are regularly checked and refilled to encourage consistent usage.
  13. Involve Parents: Share hand hygiene tips and information with parents, encouraging them to reinforce these practices at home.
  14. Lead by Example: Teachers and staff should model proper hand hygiene practices, showing students the importance of these habits through their actions.

Common questions & decisions school administrators face

Determining how to break the germ cycle in your schools.

Administrators looking to break the cycle of germs being spread in their schools may look to scheduling hand sanitizing around activities or times when students are coming together and touching one another or surfaces.  A mobile stand outside the cafeteria might be helpful in reducing the transference into the lunchroom. Squirting hand sanitizer on little hands before going out on the playground may be helpful to the playtime activities that involve sharing equipment.

Decision: “Do I use Alcohol or Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizer in my school?” 

There is no right answer to this question as it is a matter of preference. Both kill germs but use different agents to accomplish this. Maybe it would be wise to use both as some parents might prefer one vs the other for their children.  Alcohol-free is preferred if you are looking for a baby safe option.

Decision: “Do we buy Hand Sanitizer or make the parents do this?” 

Certainly, it is great when trying to attack the spread of germs to have parents enlisting their support by providing for their children but it seems likely that over time a child will forget to bring it, the bottle will run out and not be replaced, or some other unforeseen issue will take place and the program will sputter. Perhaps if budgetary concerns are dictating this decision, the Parent Teacher Organization might be helpful in providing support either in funding, fund raising or outright purchases of product.

By implementing these tips and ideas, you can help create a hygienic school environment that promotes the well-being of everyone. Remember that consistency and ongoing reinforcement are key to developing lasting habits among students and staff.