Help Your Kids Fight Flu With Soap and Water

PHOTO: More than 50 percent of illness can be prevented with proper hand washing
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With more than 500 confirmed cases of Enterovirus D68 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projecting that up to 20,000 kids will come down with the common flu this season, parents are looking for ways to keep their kids healthy.

Clean hands are the first line of defense against just about any seasonal illness, according to the CDC. About 80 percent of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch, the agency estimates.

Read on for some fun ways to get your child to reach for the soap.

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The right way to wash

First things first: Proper hand washing technique means wetting the hands, lathering up and then scrubbing for at least 20 seconds making sure to get the backs of the hands and in between the fingers, said Dr. Mark Schuster, chief of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital. Rinse thoroughly and dry the hands completely with a towel, paper towel or air dryer.

If you don’t have soap, hand sanitizer is better than nothing but it doesn’t really catch everything, Shuster added.

Sing a song

How long is 20 seconds? “Teach them to sing a song,” said Dr. Erica Brody, pediatrician at the Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, the Alphabet Song or Happy Birthday twice through is just about the right amount of hand washing time.

Play a game

Everything is a game to children. Hand washing is no different, Brody said.

“You can make up a Simon Says game with it,” Brody suggested. “Simon says ‘I just went to the bathroom,’ and they go to wash their hands.”

Add some sparkle

Place some glitter on the child’s hands to represent the bugs that spread illness. The glitter will get all over everything they touch and some will remain on their hands and face if they don’t scrub well enough, showing them how easily dirty mitts spread around the yucky stuff.

Make a chart

Track hand washing on a chart, giving your child a gold star or smiley sticker every time they soap up, Brody suggested. You can make different categories for hand washing such as right before eating, right after going to the bathroom, or right after coughing or sneezing.

Be a role model

“Kids should see the parents washing their hands too,” Schuster said. “It doesn’t work well if the parents don’t do the same thing.”

Role modeling works in reverse too. Washing their hands at school means kids are more likely to wash up at home, Schuster said. This means parents are also more apt to wash their hands when their kids come home.

To learn more about how to prevent flu and enterovirus, join the ABC Health tweet chat today at 1 p.m., ET. The chat will be moderated by Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor. The CDC, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases as well as representatives of many top hospitals, doctors and experts will be on hand to answer questions and offer advice.

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