In this section
Good hygiene is important to prevent the spread of illness. Many germs (bacterial and viral) are spread from person to person simply through touch (e.g. germs are on your hands after you touch a toy a sick child has been playing with).
It is important to regularly wash hands thoroughly, especially when caring for children who are unwell.
There are many different types of germs, including viruses and bacteria. Germs can make people sick.
Washing your hands and your children's hands is the best thing you can do to stop the spread of germs. It is particularly important to wash your hands, and teach your child to wash their hands at the following times.
How to wash your hands:
There are also antiseptic gels (hand sanitisers) that can be used instead of soap and water. The gel is rubbed into your hands to stop the spread of infections. You can purchase these from supermarkets and pharmacies.
Antibacterial soaps are not required and do not reduce the chance of getting an infection – ordinary soaps are adequate. Germs are removed by the mechanical action of washing, so rubbing hands together while washing them is most important.
Good hygiene reduces the chance of catching illnesses or passing them onto others. Good hygiene includes:
If your child is unwell with a virus or bacterial illness, keep them home from child care, kindergarten or school until they are well again. Use hot, soapy water to wash items (e.g. toys, teething rings) that a sick child has been in contact with during their illness.
When should I use soap and water and when is a hand
As a rule of thumb, if you can see dirt on your hands then you should wash them with soap and water. If your hands appear clean, use an antiseptic gel (hand sanitiser). Clean-looking hands may still have a lot of germs on them.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Infection Control department. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed July 2018.
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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.