Hand-washing is an important way to keep safe from germs. Dr. Jason Tatka, DO, FAAP, medical director at the Newborn Nursery at University Hospitals Rainbow & Babies Children’s Hospital, provides best practices:
Soap and Water
If the child is unable to stand at the sink, or is too heavy to hold, it is ok to use a damp disposable paper towel with a drop of soap on it to first wipe the child’s hands. Then, rub the hands together, lathering for as close as possible to 20 seconds.
When using a sink and soap, the water temperature should be between 60F and 120F, which should be tolerable to the touch.
When using the sink with soap and water, rub hands together for approximately 10-20 seconds outside of running water (not under the running water). Have children sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” which takes about 10 seconds.
To dry, a disposable towel can be used.
SOAP TIP: Because a bar of soap sitting in water can collect/harbor bacteria, liquid or powder soap is more preferable. Young children may not have the coordination to properly use a bar of soap.
Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers
These contain 60-95 percent alcohol, and are appropriate for children older than 24 months, or when there is no visible soil on one’s hands, and using running water and soap over a sink is not a practical option. After directly applying an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to the hand, rubbing hands together should generally take 15 seconds; however, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.