Preventive Medicine: Wash Your Hands!

By Lina Younes

With the start of the new school year, parents with young children are starting to resume their daily school routine. We’ve made sure that our children have all the necessary supplies and items required for a successful year. While we want our children to excel academically, there is one piece of advice that we can give them to ensure a healthy school year as well. What may that be? Very simple. We should teach them to wash their hands well and often.

Without basic hygiene practices, germs can easily be transmitted by hand-to-hand and hand-to-surface contact. Children with runny noses or who have not washed their hands after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing can easily transmit germs to their friends by hand-to-hand contact, putting their hands on their desks, or using common school supplies. While we all want to promote sharing, germs are something that we don’t want to share!

So what are some words of wisdom that we can impart to our children?

  • Wash your hands before eating your food.
  • Wash your hands after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing.
  • Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
  • Wash your hands after petting your dog or cat.
  • Wash your hands after playing outside.

Young children should also be reminded that washing hands well doesn’t mean to simply get their hands wet. They need to wet their hands well with clean running water, apply soap, lather and scrub their hands and fingers well for about 20 seconds or so. If they don’t want to count, how about having them hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice while their washing their hands? Then, they should rinse the soap out and dry well with a clean towel or air dry. These tips apply to children of all ages. We all can prevent the spread of disease by washing out hands.

May you have a healthy school year.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.