Parents are being urged to teach their young children an effective hand washing technique, as this will reduce their risk of picking up bugs from crèches and schools.
According to the HSE, it is ‘critical' that children are given proper instruction when washing their hands from an early age so that it comes naturally to them in later years.
"It is a fact that the 10 best things to spread bugs are the 10 fingers of your hands, especially if they are sticky and you put them in your mouth a lot. The risks are ten-fold when it comes to a child's hands," it noted.
Young children face an increased risk of contracting infectious diseases in daycare centres, crèches and schools because they are exposed to many new germs, have immune systems that are not fully developed yet and have personal habits that tend to spread germs, such as putting things in their mouths, rubbing their eyes and sucking their thumb/fingers.
"Of course, playing with other children and with animals, playing outside and getting to see and feel the world they live in is good for children and we don't want to take all the fun out of being a child with hand hygiene.
"The level of hand hygiene that you need in a hospital is not practical in ordinary life, so it is a question of balance. When children get home after all the fun, it is important to help them wash their hands," commented Prof Martin Cormican, the HSE's national lead for infection control.
He said that children should also wash their hands when they are out and about, after they use the toilet and before they eat.
"Make sure that your child has easy access to a sink in the home. If they are too small to reach the sink on their own, then you might try a small stepping stool, which will give them the independence to wash their hands on their own. Don't bother with soaps that have antibacterial agents, plain soap is fine. Antibacterial soaps might play a part in making antibiotic resistance more common," Prof Cormican noted.
Children should be taught which taps are which and how many times they need to be turned. Clean and dry towels should be close by. The HSE emphasised that simply running your hands under cold water will not suffice. Washing your hand the right way does not need to last longer than thirty seconds, but should take at least 20.
It suggests the following four easy steps:
-Take off rings and jewellery as they tend to hold dirt and skin bugs
-Wet hands and wrists with warm water and then use soap
-Lather well and clean all parts of the hand especially the finger tips
-Hold hands below elbow level to prevent water from running up arms and back down, thus contaminating clean areas.
For more information on hand hygiene, click here