It's good to get children (and adults!) in the habit of washing hands frequently, because good hand hygiene is a way of stopping or at least reducing the chance of spreading diseases, from the simple cold and cough to more dangerous diseases such as meningitis and worms!
Does this mean children shouldn't get dirty?
Not at all! Children learn so much from getting mucky in the garden and playing outside. All you have to do is to ensure that they clean up properly afterwards. Then they get to enjoy and explore their world and lead a healthy life too!
We must instil in them that it is okay to get grubby to play outside to climb ladders and trees and stroke tame animals if they wish. However, we must make sure they understand why they must clean up afterwards to keep healthy.
When should we tell children to clean their hands?
Hands should be washed AFTER:
Hands should be washed BEFORE:
Eyes, nose and mouth
It is also important to teach children to respect their eyes, nose and mouth as a place where germs can get into their bodies. Don't frighten them, but try to make them aware that germs can get in and make them unwell if they are not careful about where they touch.
When you are out and about or running round a school playground, a public drinking fountain can be a welcome sight, a place to rehydrate and for free! But how safe is it to drink from the same fountain that hundreds of others have drunk from? Would you share a water bottle with strangers in the park? I doubt it!
Are you likely to pick-up germs, bacteria and disease from all the other people who have used the fountain before? The answer seems to be unproven! There is plenty of evidence to suggest that germs and bacteria are all over drinking fountains. Some research suggested there were less germs on toilets and door handles than drinking fountains, because they are cleaned and disinfected more often. So there are more micro organisms on water fountains! Shocking.
However, this does not mean that the water is infected. The nature of the water fountain shooting an arc of water means that the water itself should not be contaminated even if the pump is itself covered in germs. So if the water is clean, it remains clean even if it comes through a mucky water fountain. Evidence to prove this fact seems sparse either to confirm the water is safe or to say it is not safe.
I suppose we should take comfort from the fact that there is not an abundance of studies proving they are contaminated. And, indeed, that we never hear of swathes of disease or outbreaks because of water fountains being unclean.
So, should we drink from water fountains and let our little ones drink from them? Yes, probably, but only if they are able to drink from the arc of water and not need to suck, lick or get too close to the spout itself! If they are too little to manage this, use the fountain to top up a water bottle or cup.
Insect stings and bites can be very painful indeed and are not confined to the balmy days of summer. Bee and wasp stings are particularly dangerous and can cause an allergic reaction to occur. 20% of those stung by a wasp suffer an allergic reaction.
Babies and young children may not be able to report a bite or sting so be aware - they may just suddenly become agitated whilst playing outside. Learn to look out for the signs and act immediately if you suspect a sting or a bite.
Fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, sandflies, horseflies, gnats, ants and some spiders may bite. A bite will often appear as a red bump or a few clustered together that are itchy, or as a white circle surrounded by slightly reddened skin. Besides local irritation, severe reaction is unlikely from bites. Bites become infected because of scratching. Bites do not contain poison but there are several diseases that are spread by insects biting, including malaria, yellow fever, lyme disease, encephalitus and typhus.
Wasps, bees, hornets and some ants sting. A sting usually takes the form of one or more swollen red bumps. In the centre you can often see a small hole through which the sting penetrated. Stings are accompanied by poisonous venom and it is this that causes the pain. People can suffer extreme allergic reactions to the sting, inducing anaphylactic shock. If you see signs of a severe reaction then consult the emergency services immediately - even a single sting can be fatal to someone suffering an allergy.
If you get stung or bitten, here's what to do:
If the following symptoms occur, consult a doctor or emergency services:
How to avoid being stung:
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