"It's a germ's world" — Prevent common infections in kids with Lifebuoy anti-bacterial soap
Read about a public health forum conducted by Lifebuoy to understand how important proper handwashing is to help prevent common childhood diseases.
"This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands..."
I'm sure all you parents reading this must have sung this song to your kids at some point to get them to wash their hands properly.
But have you ever really thought about why hand-washing is so important, other than in removing visible dirt off our hands?
According to Prof Paul Anantharajah Tambyah, President, Society of Infectious Diseases (Singapore):
"Hand hygiene has been shown across the world to be highly cost effective in reducing common childhood infections. Increasing hand hygiene at home and at school is likely to be a good way to reduce infections and save costs for the family.”
Some of these common childhood infections are:
- Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD)
- Respiratory diseases, e.g. Influenza
- Skin Infections
To find out how exactly washing our hands — especially with an anti-bacterial soap such as Lifebuoy — can particularly help in preventing the diseases mentioned above, I recently attended a very informative public health forum organised by Lifebuoy at Mount Elizabeth Hospital (Novena).
Lifebuoy held this public forum ("HFMD, Myths and Facts Explained"), to shed light on Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) as well as other common infections and how to prevent them.
If you are wondering why the forum chose to focus on HFMD in particular, it's because of recent findings revealed by The Lifebuoy Cost of Infection study.
The Lifebuoy Cost of Infection study
This study is the first local study on the economic impact of common childhood infections. HFMD, in particular, stood out as the disease which cost the most.
Here are some of the main points of the study:
- Local families spend upwards of S$150 on average for each episode of childhood infection, and nearly S$1,000 in indirect costs.
- HFMD has the highest opportunity cost and is the only infection that crossed the S$1,000 mark.
- Nearly 6 in 10 children come down with respiratory and skin infections, diarrhoea and HFMD, and they and their parents lost up to 5 days of school and work respectively.
- Up to 7 in 10 mothers worry about the impact on their child’s education if they were absent from school because of an illness.
- The amount paid out to treat per episode of HFMD is again the highest (S$207) compared to other infections.
- 7 in 10 mothers believe they can prevent their children from falling ill, with the most common preventative measure cited as a healthy diet.
- Only about 1 in 10 mothers mentioned regular hand-washing as a precautionary method, though 9 in 10 of them claimed their families do wash their hands with an anti-bacterial soap.
- Only about 7 in 10 children washed their hands before and after food, after play and when they come home from outside.
To find out what the speakers at the forum had to say, please go to the next page...
As pointed out on the previous page, given that very few Singaporean mums use hand-washing as a preventative measure for common childhood infections, the public health forum held by Lifebuoy was indeed timely.
Speaking at the event were Dr Leong Hoe Nam (Vice President, Society of Infectious Diseases, Singapore), Ms Fiona Ooi (Nurse Clinician, National University Hospital), and Mr Tan I-Ren (General Manager, MindChamps PreSchool).
HFMD, myths and facts explained
Right through his presentation, Dr Leong Hoe Nam emphasized the importance of kids washing their hands often, preferably with an anti-bacterial handwash such as Lifebuoy.
He explained that good hand hygience practices can drastically reduce the incidence and spread of common childhood diseases such as HFMD.
Here are some of the key points from his presentation:
- Kids are most susceptible to falling ill after festive seasons and during the school holidays.
- Infections usually occur through contact, and through the respiratory route (e.g. droplets, air).
- HFMD is spread through: (a) contact; (b) objects; (c) droplets.
Dr Leong also explained that if your child gets HFMD, it's best to have an action plan that includes being socially responsible (e.g. keeping your child away from others till he/she is better) and getting medical care for your child (adequate hydration, rest and medication if needed).
He emphasised that even if your child gets HFMD, there's no need to panic as it gives your child cross-protection from other strains of the disease such as EV-71.
In other words, if EV-71 ever strikes (currently, there is no EV-71 in Singapore), it's highly likely your child will be protected from it if he/she already had HFMD at some point.
How to avoid infections within the family
- Isolate contact with the sick child as well as with objects the child uses such as toys.
- Practice good hand hygiene.
Dr Leong also identified influenza (flu) as another common illness kids get.
He emphasised the difference between the flu and a common cold (the flu presents with symptoms such as body ache, which is not a symptom of the common cold) and also that influenza can be prevented through vaccination.
Ultimately, when it comes to HFMD, influenza, chickenpox or diarrhea, practicing good hand hygiene can help immensely in both preventing the contraction of the disease, as well as preventing its spread to others.
More on hand-washing techniques and how to keep your child safe from diseases at preschool on the next page...
Ms Fiona Ooi talked about some very interesting points related to hand-washing.
Mums, do you love your long nails/artificial nails and gelish manicures? Well, these things could actually be impeding proper hand hygiene.
- Long nails prevent you from thoroughly cleansing the tips of your fingers.
- Dirt and bacteria can get trapped between your artificial nails and your real nails.
- The same goes for gelish manicures — they interfere in proper hand-washing.
Ms Fiona also pointed out that while many of us like to wear rings, often we don't clean the skin of our fingers underneath the ring.
TIP: If you wear rings, when you wash your hands remember to gently move the ring up and down so adequate soap reaches and cleanses the skin of your finger/s.
According to Ms Fiona,
- Handwash should ideally be used to clean your hands.
- If handwash is not available, then a handrub/sanitizer will work. But do remember that if you have visibly soiled hands, a handrub will be ineffective.
- After washing your hands, dry them with a paper towel or clean hand towel.
Ms Fiona's message was simple and clear: Simple hand hygiene can prevent illness for you and your family.
Hygiene management in preschools
All parents with young kids know that when children go to preschool, they tend to fall ill more frequently. Given this, it makes sense that preschools should be following proper hygiene management routines.
While Mr Tan I-Ren spoke specifically about the hygiene management plan he has implemented in MindChamps PreSchool, the points he raised were informative and important, and certainly applicable to any preschool in Singapore.
If your child is currently in preschool, here are some of the things you could ask his/her preschool management about their hygiene management policies.
Actually, even if you are still looking for a preschool for your little one, you could ask the school management the following questions.
- What is the school's standard operating procedure for outbreaks of infectious diseases such as HFMD or chickenpox?
- What kind of health screening does the school conduct for both kids and staff? For example, how many times a day do they check children's temperatures and how often do they check kids for signs of illnesses such as HFMD or flu?
- What preventative measures do they have in place?
- What kind of hand sanitisation products do they use and do they supervise hand-washing?
- What is their health education programme for kids? Do they teach kids the proper way of washing their hands and when kids should be cleaning their hands?
- What are the school's daily hygiene management practices? E.g. how often are the floor, other surfaces and toys cleaned and sanitised?
Parents, do remember: stay one step ahead of infections, practice good and consistent hand hygiene practices both at home and when you are out and about, and use a high quality anti-bacterial handwash like Lifebuoy.
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