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Parents Must Lend a Hand


Mums’ and Dads’ lax attitude to handwashing could be putting children at risk, research warns

Key Findings

  • Just 57% of children say they wash their hands after each visit to the toilet, and only 26% wash their hands before every meal
  • More than 90% of parents said they believed kids could be too hygienic and that ‘a bit of dirt might be good for them’
  • 20% of children’s hands found to have heavy levels of bacteria

Research released today by Initial Hygiene suggests that parents may be endangering their children’s health by taking a ‘laissez-faire’ approach to hand hygiene. A survey of primary school children and their parents has shown kids lag behind their parents when it comes to handwashing, with over 40% of youngsters saying that they don’t always wash their hands with soap after using the toilet, and almost three quarters admitting they didn’t wash before every meal.

Hand Washing

90% of the parents questioned said that they believed their children could be too hygienic and that ‘a bit of dirt might be good for them’. Just over two thirds of the children surveyed said that their parents played the biggest role in influencing their hand-washing habits, suggesting that mums’ and dads’ lax attitude towards hand hygiene is the reason behind their kids’ poor habits.

Microbiological testing conducted by Initial showed that 20% of children’s hands are home to ‘heavy’ levels of bacteria which pose a risk of cross-contamination. Boys’ hands were found to be dirtier than girls’, and those aged 8 had the highest average levels of bacteria on their hands among the focus group of 7- to 11-year olds.

Amongst the children there was an awareness of the benefits of using hand sanitiser after hand washing, and some even claimed to carry their own, whether it was supplied in school or not.

The research has been unveiled ahead of Global Handwashing Day, which takes place on October 15th, and encourages better hand hygiene practises in order to reduce the spread of infectious diseases. Hands provide a perfect breeding ground for a wide range of bacteria and viruses, including swine flu (H1N1), MRSA, Salmonella, Norovirus and E. coli.

Dr Peter Barratt, Technical Manager, Initial Hygiene, commented: “In the past few years we have learnt an awful lot more about the dangers posed by poor hand hygiene. Parents’ belief that their children may be ‘too hygienic’ is alarming, as some of the bacteria and viruses which can be carried on hands can have serious consequences. Many common pathogens can be carried on hands, from Staphylococcus and E. Coli to Norovirus and influenza. Regularly washing hands with soap and water has been proven to reduce the risk of spreading these types of pathogens, and so it is up to parents to educate their children on how handwashing can help them stay fit and healthy.”

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