Hand washing in Schools and colleges

Did you know?

  • Nearly 22 million school days are lost each year due to the common cold?
  • 52.2 million cases of the common cold affect children under 17 years of age each year?
  • Children have about 6-10 colds a year?
  • Adults average 2-4 colds a year?
  • Some viruses and bacteria can live from 20 minutes up to 2 hours or more on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks?

The Centers for Disease control and prevention (CDC) reports that addressing the spread of germs in schools is essential to the health of our youth and our schools. "The most important thing that you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands," according to the CDC's official statement on hand washing.
Many studies document hand washing's impact on student and staff attendance: school-wide hand washing programs reduce absenteeism

The first-ever Global Hand washing Day, launched in October 2008, revolved around schools and children, as children suffer disproportionately from diarrhoea and respiratory diseases and deaths. According to WHO, diarrhoea kills almost 2 million children worldwide every year. In the UK, infections that cause diarrhoea, vomiting, common colds and flu are responsible for the loss of thousands of school days each year. Hand hygiene is the single most important way of reducing infection and preventing its spread.

Schools have an important role to play in teaching and encouraging hand washing from an early age. Hand washing habits learnt at school can last a lifetime.

Washing hands after using the toilet and before eating, along with thorough and regular cleaning of surfaces that harbour germs from faeces, colds and flu (door handles, taps and toilet flush handles are particular hot spots for harbouring germs), are important measures for reducing sickness rates for all schools.

The Health Protection Agency’s (HPA) monitoring of infections over recent weeks suggests that cases of the winter vomiting bug (norovirus) are rising. The virus is the most common cause of gastrointestinal disease in the UK with peak activity in terms of numbers of cases and outbreaks during the winter months, from October to March. It has been estimated that between 600,000 and a million people in the UK are affected each year.

Global Handwashing Day spotlights the important issue in the year that the UN General Assembly has designated the International Year of Sanitation to promote improved hygiene practices and draw attention to the world’s enormous sanitation challenges.

Naturally, we would all assume the hand washing is a simple thing to understand and we all (as adults) know exactly how to wash our hands – don’t we? A simple exercise by using a hand inspection cabinet and the GlitterBug lotion demonstrates a very different story. Most of us are very surprised to see under UV light just how much we have missed and how much potential areas of cross-contamination we still carry. 

For many years now, DaRo UV Systems have been a major provider and manufacturer of hand washing training equipment and products. The easy to use equipment is invaluable to teaching staff and infection control staff to show just how to wash hands correctly and with the children’s packs, just how much fun it is to learn

Many schools have established hand washing projects which incorporate music, Art (poster campaigns etc), Media, Student outreach (where older students teach the younger students)   

Hand Washing Project Ideas for Students

A list of fun and educational project ideas for students of all ages to teach about the spread of germs and hand washing.
Language Arts
Student Outreach
Community Outreach

An example of a Science project conducted at schools
  • Conduct educational session on the topic of hand washing behavior and disease transmission to high school science classes.
  • Have students swab common school surfaces and grow the specimens in Petri dishes. Also touch fingers on Petri dishes.
  • Measure "before" and "after" effectiveness of hand washing training efforts by using the GlitterBug Potion. (The lotion will "glow" if students haven’t thoroughly washed their hands.)
  • Compute an average absenteeism rate for students or group due to illness. Conduct hand washing education and have students wash their hands up to four times each day. Measure absenteeism rate after the project.
  • Perform a pre-and post-test on educational seminar participants to illustrate program effectiveness.
Overall Objectives
  • To support teachers, midday assistants, parents and carers in promoting good hand hygiene and to change the culture with regard to effective hand washing.
  • To teach children about the spread of germs and disease.
  • Increase awareness amongst the target group about the importance of hand washing in reducing the spread disease.
  • To facilitate the teaching of a good hand washing technique. 
  • To use schools as a setting for the health based message. 
  • To work in partnership with ‘Sure Start’ to deliver a programme in the ‘Sure Start’ area to reduce the incidence of enteric infections amongst the under 4’s. 
  • To develop a teaching resource to support teaching staff in sustaining the hand hygiene message.