For Immediate Release
Contact: Jerry Carey
At UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine
Physician Says 20 Seconds of Prevention Can Make Children Better Students
8/18/05—Parents only need about 20 seconds to show their children how to get more out of school this year and they don't need to open a book or turn on a computer to do it. That's the time it takes to show children the proper method of washing their hands.
"The average child misses five days of school each year due to illness. The common cold alone causes 22 million missed school days each year," said Dr. R. Michael Gallagher, the dean of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)-School of Osteopathic Medicine. "By taking just a few minutes to teach children how and when to wash their hands parents can help make sure their children miss fewer school days and or go to school with a cold or other mild ailment that makes learning difficult. As an added bonus, parents may also end up with fewer trips to the pediatrician’s office and have fewer days missed from work while caring for a child who is ill."
Dr. Gallagher recommends that parents teach children the "ABC method" for hand washing.
"Start by having your children wet their hands and apply liquid or bar soap," he said. "Then tell them to sing the 'ABC song' while rubbing their hands vigorously - front, back and between the fingers. That should take about 15 or 20 seconds. Next, rinse and thoroughly dry the hands."
Hand washing is the first line of defense against many illnesses. Some germs and viruses can live for up to two hours on surfaces like desktops and doorknobs. The risk of contracting a cold, the flu, hepatitis A, meningitis and infectious diarrhea can be greatly reduced through better hand hygiene.
"Remind your children to wash their hands before eating and after going to the bathroom, playing outside or sneezing or blowing their nose," Dr. Gallagher said. "They don't need to use antibacterial soaps, either. Used properly, any soap will cause germs slide right off your skin and down the drain. If soap and water aren't available, alcohol-based gels or wipes can be just as effective."
To arrange an interview with Dr. Gallagher, contact Jerry Carey at the UMDNJ News Service at (856) 566 6171 or at (973) 972 5000.