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Washing After Playing with Pets

By: Lisa Klassen - Updated: 5 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
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According to numerous studies hand washing is something that adults don’t do enough, let alone children! But hand washing prevents the spread of disease and illnesses contracted from pet contact, so it is a very important part of your child’s pet education process.

When to Wash

Any time your child plays with their pets, handles their food dishes, toys, bedding, grooming brushes, litter boxes or anything that could have come into contact with faecal matter, they need to wash their hands. This is especially important before meals. Diseases are transmitted by contact with parts of the body like the eyes, nose, mouth, food and anything that will get into a child’s saliva or blood. It is a good idea to have children cover up open cuts and sores with a plaster and an antibacterial cream before playing with animals as diseases can get into the bloodstream this way.

Some of the diseases that can be passed from your pet to your child are:

  • E.coli
  • salmonella
  • toxoplasmosis
  • tuberculosis
  • ringworm
  • roundworm
  • rabies
While good hygiene is an excellent practice for kids with pets, please realise at the same time that the likelihood of contracting these illnesses is not large, so there is no need to instill an unnecessary fear of germs and the pet in your children by scaring them into good hand washing practices. Instead, use some kid friendly strategies to help them learn the important lesson of hand washing hygiene.

Teaching and Playing Combined

Brightly coloured signs around animal play areas, in the bathroom and on the door to your kid’s room will help spark their memories. If your child is younger, illustrations really help the memory process as well. You can always download and print graphics off the internet, check with your local pet shops for signs or cut out pictures from a magazine. But the best way to help kids remember the importance of hand washing is to have them make the pictures and posters themselves or with you. This way, the lesson really sticks in their memories. You can turn this into a fun day’s activity by getting really creative and turning the posters into pieces of your child’s artwork. Bring out the glitter, the glue, the magic markers and construction paper and make this a family project.

Speaking of glitter, it can be a really useful in showing younger children how germs spread. Put some glitter on your child’s hands and then have them walk around touching objects and parts of their body. Have them look around the room when they are done at all the places that have glitter and then at themselves in a mirror. Afterwards, take them to the bathroom and guide them through the hand washing process to remove the glitter or ‘germs’. This is an excellent teaching tool.

Buy a fun kid’s book about hand washing and make it a part of night-time reading once a week for a period of time until you feel the lesson has made an impact. After that, bring the book out every now and again to reinforce what your child has learned already. Making up a hand washing song and singing it while washing also makes an impact and helps your kid keep hygiene in mind every time.

How to Wash Up Well

Use an antiseptic soap and make sure they wash for at least 30 seconds. It’s important to teach kids not to forget to scrub under the nails, which are an easily overlooked area that bacteria gather under. Make sure your child removes any rings or hand jewelry before washing as well. Have them rinse their hands well and then completely dry them with a clean towel. Single use paper towels are best for this, so bacteria don’t have a chance to gather in wet cloth.

A Word of Warning With Reptiles

With reptiles and amphibians in the family, parents need to be more rigorous with their cleanliness measures due to the health risks these pets present. Salmonella bacteria is present in their skin and saliva and can be transmitted by handling, touching your pet’s food and water dishes, cage, bedding and anything else your pet has had contact with. Impress upon your children that Salmonella is an illness with symptoms of uncontrollable vomiting and/or diarrhea and they should get the hint.

Once kids get their washing up techniques perfect, they will have learned a vital technique for staying clear of illness and disease for the rest of their lives. So teach them now and they will be thanking you later.

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