Author: Gauri Kshirsagar
A new baby is completely dependent on loved ones and they need lots of care and attention. You are responsible for their welfare and this means trying, as much as possible, to prevent your baby from acquiring infections. Hygiene and cleanliness are very important for a young baby. As babies can’t wash themselves, it is vital that you, as the parent, have good hygiene practices in place. These practices are important in terms of protecting against viral flu and other illnesses, but also to protect against the all too common gastro bugs which can make a young baby very ill and at risk of dehydration. One of the most effective ways of preventing infection and safe guarding your baby is good hand hygiene and basic hand-washing.
Why is hand washing so important?
Germs are always collecting on your hands—when you open doors, wipe children’s faces, play with toys and change diapers. You can’t avoid germs, but you can reduce the chance of passing them to others by washing your hands often. Although bacteria are not always harmful to adults, newborns, and particularly special care babies, are fragile little
beings and can be extremely susceptible to infection. Our hands are not sterile and bacteria found on them are either resident or transient. Resident bacteria are deep seated, difficult to remove and are part of the body’s natural defence mechanism. Transient bacteria, then, can be transferred with ease to and from hands and are a leading cause of cross-infection, but can easily be removed with good hand hygiene. Therefore, the purpose of Baby talk baby care Hand hygiene is extremely important when looking after your little one. Shideh Kiafar explains how best to keep your baby free from infection.
When should parents wash their hands?
- Before and after baby care.
- Before and after changing a nappy.
- Before making up a feed or bottle.
- Before and after carrying out cord care.
- Before removing items from a steriliser.
- Before and after breastfeeding.
- Before handling or eating food.
Before giving first aid or medication.
- Immediately after handling high-risk food, e.g. meat.
- After using the toilet.
- After contact with blood or body fluids, e.g. faeces, vomit, nasal secretions or saliva.
- After touching a contaminated area, e.g. rubbish bin or cleaning cloth.
- After handling pets, pet cages, feeding utensils and other pet items (litter trays).
- Whenever hands look dirty.
- After caring for a sick child.
When should children wash their hands?
It’s important to help young children to wash their hands to make sure it is done well.
Children should wash their hands before:
- Eating or handling food.
- Water play.
Children should wash their hands after:
- Using the toilet.
- Playing outdoors or in sand.
- Playing with pets or animals.
- Sneezing or coughing into their hands or blowing noses.
Steps to proper handwashing
- Work up a good lather and make sure you wash your wrists, hands, fingers, thumbs, fingernails, and in between your fingers.
- You should rub your hands with soap for at least 15 seconds to kill the
- Rinse the soap off hands with clean running water.
- It is also important to dry your hands properly using a clean hand towel as bacteria builds up if hands are damp.
- Try to use a liquid soap dispenser. Avoid leaving bars of soap moist by using a proper stand. Bar soaps contain fatty acid (oil) and if they remain moist they absorb dirt and micro-organisms use it as food and grow on it easily.
- Cuts on cuticles, hands and arms must be covered with a waterproof dressing.
- Proper hand hygiene also includes attention to fingernails and jewellery. The longer the fingernails and more intricate the jewellery, the greater the available surface area for germs to inhabit. Artificial nails are particularly inviting to bacteria. Additionally, sharp edges of jewellery or ragged fingernails have the potential to scratch the baby. Rings with stones act as moisture traps, therefore, it’s advisable to remove jewellery, and to keep nails short and clean.
- When water and soap are not available, use pre-moistened hand wipes or alcohol-based hand rinses. Keep hand rinses out of the reach of children because they may be harmful if swallowed.
- Following is a picture chart showing WHO (World Health Organization) recommended steps of hand washing, which are also followed by surgeons world over before performing any surgery.
How should I wash my baby’s hands?
- Wash your baby’s hands with soap and a warm, wet, fresh towel (either paper or cloth).
- Rinse the baby’s hands with another fresh, warm, wet towel.
- Dry the hands well.
Is there anything else I should know about handwashing?
- Don’t use a single damp cloth to wash a group of children’s hands. Each child should get a clean cloth.
- Don’t use a standing basin of water (such as dirty dish water) to rinse hands.
- Don’t use sponges or non-disposable cleaning cloths unless you change them daily and clean them using detergent. Germs thrive on moist surfaces.
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