I know what you are thinking – they have a holiday for handwashing? What will they think of next? I said the same exact thing when I saw that October 15th is Global Handwashing Day. Then I began to think how much we take handwashing for granted. We live in a first world country where everyone has Wi-Fi, at least one television in every home and a computer for each person in it. Let me explain why it is a vital holiday for us to reflect on.
The holiday began in Stockholm in 2008. They wanted to bring awareness to the importance of handwashing. Think about how important handwashing is and how often we do it during the day. After we go to the bathroom, after we touch something that is not clean, when cooking, after cleaning, coming back from the store, after shaking hands with strangers and so on and so forth. We wash our hands a lot. Why do we do this? So we do not spread germs and help us not to get sick.
So why do we celebrate the holiday? Because we want to reduce childhood morality rates due to diarrheal and respiratory diseases. How do you reduce these issues? Just simply by washing your hands. Hand washing is something we all have access to. All you need is water and soap and you can wash your hands.
I am often asked if there is a certain type of soap people should be using to wash their hands with and the answer is no. it does not matter if it is foam soap, liquid soap or bar soap, so long as it is soap it will work. It does not matter if it is antibacterial either, the germs will be washed off either way.
If you have children, discuss with them the importance of washing their hands especially after going to the bathroom and sneezing/coughing/blowing their nose. Kids sometimes need to be reminded to cover their mouths when they sneeze and cough, but once they have that down then you need to make sure they wash their hands frequently when they have a cold.
Once you get into the habit of washing your hands it just seems like second nature. You want to instill this habit in your kids when they are young so they can prevent spreading germs right away. This will mean your kids will miss less school days and you can spend your sick time on day trips rather than being at home with a sick kid.
So you want to know how to educate the people in your town about Global Handwashing Day? I would bring it to the attention of the school first. You did your job at home, now it is time to see what the school is able to do to help. Have their teacher discuss it with the kids and bring it to terms that they are able to understand. A little kid in kindergarten may not know scientific terms, but they do know the difference between feeling good and feeling sick. Older kids know the scientific terms and you can be more honest with them. You have to remind them that they are never too old to learn the importance of washing their hands, especially after going to the bathroom.
You can continue to do your part by addressing it to your local municipality. Since schools have had budget cuts, the funding for assemblies may not be possible, but your municipality can hold events for families. Ask them to put one on October 15th on Global Handwashing Day so they can discuss it on the actual holiday. Have a question and answer portion so kids and adults can discuss it more freely.
The final thing I can recommend you do is create a poster with your kids about the importance of handwashing. Have them research how long they should be washing their hands, how they should wash their hands and which parts need to be washed. It is longer and higher than you may think. They do not need to wash their hands like a surgeon, but they do need to wash their hands thoroughly.