A lazy mom won’t remind her children to wash hands after bio breaks, handling pets and playing outdoors. We all know that it’s essentials of hygiene, but why exactly is it important to practice proper hand washing? First and foremost, it’s the only way to avoid catching diseases of dirty hands. Think you can escape with a slight intestinal disorder lasting for a day? There’s the whole gamut of more dangerous threats than that…
Danger at your fingertips: how many bacteria do we carry on our skin?
According to the recent research of the University of Colorado at Boulder, we carry about 3,200 bacteria of 150 various species on our hands! According to WHO, there are over 1,4 mln of HAI (healthcare-associated infections) at any time, and this number is grossly underestimated.
Each of bacteria poses some level of danger to human health, especially for kids. Why they are in particular risk?
- Kids often rub eyes and put hands in their mouth.
- Toddlers often eat with their hands instead of fork and spoon.
- Children’s immune system isn’t strong enough to combat infections.
- Kids communicate with their peers on a regular basis: microbes travel from peron to person through toys, hand touch, and pieces of food shared.
More on the topic: Best natural immune support products for kids
5 Dangerous Diseases of Dirty Hands
The diseases mentioned below are easy to catch by not washing your hands.
Norovirus is the number one cause of viral gastroenteritis and is dangerous for people of all ages. It spreads quickly over people living together or having direct contact. That’s why if one person gets ill, the other family members are likely to catch it, too. The disease also affects people in closed and crowded environments, such as nursing homes, schools, child care centers, etc.
The symptoms of noroviruses exhibit in 12-48 hours after catching the microbes and include:
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Cramps and abdominal pain.
- Loose diarrhea.
- Muscle pain.
For kids, norovirus infection can be particularly harmful: vomiting and diarrhea can cause serious dehydration.
More on the topic: Signs of dehydration in kids: detect and eliminate
2. Nosocomial infections
Unfortunately, some infections can be caught in the hospital as a result of doctors or patients not washing their hands. In many cases, nosocomial infections (those that are acquired in a hospital) include MRSA and E.coli, Tuberculosis and Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus.
Sounds scary? It is. Here are some facts about these diseases.
- MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is resistant to antibiotics and very hard to eliminate totally. It causes skin infections, pneumonia, and other issues. If left untreated, it triggers sepsis.
Escherichia coli is the bacteria that hide in foods, the environment, and intestines of people and animals. Some of its types can make a person sick causing diarrhea, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and other illnesses. In kids, it can provoke fever (less than 101˚F), stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. The worst complication of E.coli is hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) that affects kidneys.
- Tuberculosis in children can lead to lethal results. According to WHO’s statistics, about 239,000 kids die from it each year. In some cases, it becomes drug-resistant and is very hard to cure.
- Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus is more difficult in treatment than regular intestinal infections. Less than 10% of people die from this disease. This infection often develops in wounds, so kids should wash hands after touching their damaged skin, too.
More on the topic: How to reduce fever in child: Do’s and Don’ts
3. Hepatitis A
One of the most dangerous diseases of dirty hands, Hepatitis A can affect liver causing abdominal pains, fever, fatigue, and jaundice. As a rule, it spreads via food that was contaminated by people who didn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, even microscopic amounts of feces can easily transmit this malaise.
The younger the kid is, the less is the chance of developing any symptoms. Only 30% of children under 6 have symptoms, and they are mild. There’s no specific treatment or Hepatitis A – kid’s immune system will fight it gradually, but supportive care is required because the disease may last for weeks.
This is a parasitic disease of the intestine that is accompanied by such symptoms as gas, diarrhea, and cramping. It usually spreads by hand-to-feces contact and infected water, therefore, one child can pass it to another easily.
To combat this disease, doctors usually prescribe metronidazole for 5- 10 days. For small children, furazolidone is prescribed as an alternative. This disease is diagnosed by examination of stool under a microscope. If you notice your little one exhibiting such symptoms as stomach upset, greasy stool, flatulence or gas, dehydration, and abdominal cramps, ask your doctor to organize stool analysis.
5. Airborne Illnesses
Although respiratory illnesses are typically spread through the drops of saliva that are coughed or sneezed into the air, dirty hands can carry infections, too. When the droplets land on surrounding objects we touch, they ‘contaminate’ them. Thus, a kid can catch a disease by simply touching the things placed around the ill person. Most common respiratory diseases of dirty hands are cold and influenza, as well as chicken pox, meningitis, and streptococcal infections of Group A and B.
How useful hand washing is?
- Reduces the number of people suffering from diarrhea by 23-40%.
- Lowers the occurrence of diarrhea in people with weakened immune systems by 58%.
- Minimizes respiratory diseases in people by 16-21%.
- Reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57%.
Just think of it: about 1.8 kids die from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia each year, and many of those cases could have been prevented by taking proper hygiene measures. Hand washing can prevent these diseases in your kid, too.
So every time your child refuses to wash hands, take the effort to clean the little palms with a generous portion of soap – it can save the kid from diseases of dirty hands.