Diarrhoea, flu, the dreaded HFMD ― save your child from illness by teaching him to wash his hands properly.


Did you know simple hand washing can reduce cases of diarrhoea by up to 45 per cent? The Health Promotion Board Singapore says that when children wash their hands thoroughly — usually the first line of defence against the spread of many diseases — the rate of infection is reduced significantly. Yes, it’s that simple.

Your hands can have about 5,000 germs at any given time. Though most of us believe that cold germs are spread through sneezing and coughing, illnesses are spread mostly through hand-to-hand contact and the transfer of germs. So, washing your hands is the single most effective way to prevent germs from spreading.

And you don’t need fancy antibacterial soap either — it’s perfectly fine to wash with soap and running water. If you happen to have antibiotic washes, that’s an added layer of protection.

Notes Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist at Rophi Clinic, “The hand hygiene taught in hospitals is good. Some parents do a song and dance to teach the hand wash procedure.”

You could use any tune that lasts over 30 seconds, but the HPB has whipped up a song and video to the tune of If You’re Happy and You Know It (Clap Your Hands):

It’s fun to wash your hands

And we know you’ll understand

So we washy washy clean scrub scrub

We start with washing palm to palm

Between each finger let us rub

Now the back of the hands, it’s such a simple plan

We washy washy clean scrub scrub

Clean the base of the thumbs one-by-one

Then the back of the fingers — this is fun!

Don’t forget the fingernails, it’s about details

We washy washy clean scrub scrub

Now move on to the wrists, let us rub

I think we’re nearly done so now what?

Just rinse the soap away, dry our hands and we’re okay

We washy washy clean scrub scrub

Turn the page to find out how and when to wash your hands…


Photo: iStock



Here is how to wash hands properly in eight simple steps. Do scrub them well for at least 20 seconds. Wash:



To reduce your and your child’s risk of catching or spreading a cold or the flu, wash your hands often and especially during cold and flu (influenza) season.

Wash your hands before...:

  • ...during, and after preparing food — to reduce your risk of catching or spreading bacteria that cause food poisoning. Be especially careful to wash before and after preparing poultry, raw eggs, meat or seafood.
  • …you eat or feed your child.
  • …caring for a sick person
  • …treating a cut or wound.

Wash your hands after…:

  • …going to the bathroom or changing diapers ― this lessens your risk of catching or spreading infectious diseases like salmonella or hepatitis A.
  • …touching body parts that aren’t clean.
  • …coughing, sneezing, or using a handkerchief or disposable tissue.
  • …handling or preparing foods ― especially after touching raw meat, poultry, fish, shellfish or eggs.
  • …touching an animal, animal waste, pet food or pet treats.
  • …handling garbage, using the phone or shaking hands.
  • …caring for a sick person.
  • …treating a cut or wound.

Here’s one last tip to protect your child — and yourself — from infections. Dr Leong advises, “Wear a surgical mask,” says Dr Leong. “It helps prevent spreading and helps prevent receiving [infections].”

In the case of a very young child who cannot be trusted to keep the mask on, keep a sick child at home. Just make sure you wash your hands before and after touching them, before touching their food, and definitely after cleaning up any vomit, snot or mess.

Dr Leong Hoe Nam is an infectious-disease specialist at Rophi Clinic.

Illos: iStock

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