Wash your hands often to reduce communicable diseases

  • Children
  • Friday, 21 Dec 2018

Parents play an important role in teaching their children hand hygiene. Photo: The Star/Mustafa Ahmad

Parents and caregivers should educate children on hand hygiene habits to avoid infectious diseases, says Hospital Sungai Buloh Department of Medicine head and senior infectious diseases consultant physician Datuk Dr Christopher Lee.

He advises people to wash their hands at critical times to avoid spreading germs.

“Wash your hands before eating, when preparing food, after going to the rest room or touching anything unhygienic. Washing hands helps decrease chances of spreading communicable diseases. Hand hygiene helps protect you and others around you,” said Dr Lee during Lifebuoy’s launch of the 11th Global Handwashing Day 2018 in Kuala Lumpur recently.

Children need to be taught the importance of hand hygiene from a young age, he added.

The simple task of washing your hands can reduce the spread of germs.

“Parents and caregivers should practise hand hygiene too because children learn from observance. Teach children to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or handkerchief when they cough. Use a sanitiser to reduce the risk of spreading germs.”

The Health Ministry reported cumulative number of Hand Foot Mouth disease (HFMD) cases nationwide from Jan 1 to Aug 3 was 43,250. In July, two deaths were reported in Penang and Sarawak. Our nation has seen a spike in HFMD cases with an increase of 28% recorded as of June 2018 compared to the same period last year.

HFMD is an infection that typically occurs in children less than five years old. Symptoms include spots that may blister, on areas such as hands, feet, and mouth, and at times, buttocks and groin.

Without proper handwashing or disinfecting, contagious germs are passed on to the people or things they come into contact with. It is vital to advocate the necessity of handwashing with soap and teach about the impact that unclean hands have on transmission of diseases.

"Use a sanitiser to reduce the risk of spreading germs,” says Datuk Dr Christopher Lee. Photo: The Star/SS Kanesan.

In 2015, Lifebuoy’s launched its School of 5 handwashing programme to instil the importance of hand hygiene among kindergarten children. The programme is designed with elements to facilitate behavioural change and form a habit change using five ways –make it understood, make it easy, make it desirable, make it a habit and make it rewarding.

Under the programme, two kindergarten teachers are nominated by their schools to conduct a handwashing week with students. They are given educational material to reinforce the message of good handwashing habits in a fun way. In three years, the programme has reached out to over 200,000 children across eight states. It includes over 4,700 teachers from 2,852 schools.

Recently, Lifebuoy took the programme to Kuching, as a pilot to increase awareness of proper handwashing hygiene among children.14,000 kindergarten children participated in the programme. The programme targeted Sarawak as the state recorded the highest incidences of HFMD in Malaysia in 2016.

“We believe that habit forming starts from young, thus our focus on educating pre-schoolers and primary school children. Our vision is to instil proper handwashing behaviour in one billion people globally by 2020,” said Unilever Malaysia beauty, personal care and home care director Vincent Chong.

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