When Should You Wash Your Hands as a Teacher?
While handwashing best practices may look different as children grow, the underlying importance stays the same: wash your hands well and wash them often. As a teacher, maintaining good hand hygiene not only keeps you and your students healthy, but it also instills behavior in your pupils, planting the seed for better health and safety in the next generation.
Students learn by example. This applies to both the lessons you intend to teach and some that you don’t even realize you are giving. From a scientific standpoint, this is known to be caused by mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are cells in the central nervous system that are stimulated when someone observes someone else perform an activity and then again when they replicate that action.
These little cells give teachers an extra tool to teach their students hygiene and handwashing best practices simply by leading by example. But when should you wash your hands to stay healthy and help your students do the same? It may be more often than you think.
When should you wash your hands as an early childhood teacher?
As an early childhood teacher, you likely spend most of your day providing care and creating activities that engage and maintain a young child’s focus. These activities often require a lot of interaction, either with shared items or other students. With such activities comes more contact points, making it even more important for you and your students to wash your hands thoroughly and often. This is why there is stringent regulation surrounding hand hygiene in early childhood education.
To meet regulatory standards, and set a good example of handwashing best practices for your students, you should wash your hands in each of the following instances:
- Upon arrival at the child care center.
- Immediately before handling food, preparing bottles, or feeding children.
- After handling food.
- Before handling clean utensils or equipment.
- After using the toilet, assisting a child in using the toilet, or changing diapers.
- After handling of body fluids (e.g., saliva, nasal secretions, vomitus, feces, urine, blood, secretions from sores, pustulant discharge).
- After handling soiled items such as garbage, mops, cloths, and clothing.
- Whenever hands are visibly soiled.
- After removing disposable gloves.
When should you wash your hands as a K-12 teacher?
Unlike early childhood, K-12 schools do not have regulatory standards around the frequency that staff should be washing their hands. So it's incumbent upon the teachers to be aware of the times when you should wash your hands. Additionally, as supervision decreases it’s up to students to follow handwashing best practices, which further emphasizes the importance of teachers leading by example.
You should wash your hands:
- Upon arrival at school
- In between activities, particularly those involving items someone else may touch
- Prior to and after eating or handling food
- After using the restrooms
- Before and after helping individuals
- Before leaving school for the day
If you are interested in learning more about handwashing in childcare and education settings please attend our upcoming informational webinar. The discussion will cover handwashing best practices, teaching strategies, and resources, arming you with the tools needed to become a handwashing superhero!