FCS agent teaches healthy habits to area students
The holidays are about sharing the love, not germs.
That was the message of family and consumer science (FCS) agent Tamara Allen to Berryville Elementary School recently.
Hand-washing is a key, often overlooked, behavior that is important for food safety, disease prevention and personal health, she said. Most people do not wash their hands as often or as well as needed, she said.
Allen said great gatherings often put large groups of people in close proximity, increasing the opportunity to snag infectious germs from others. Proper hand-washing is easy, she said, and is very important during the holiday season because illnesses like the cold and the flu can spread fast in large groups.
“Healthy habits ensure our students are here at school learning every day,” said elementary principal Kelly Swofford. “We want to make every day count.”
The students at Berryville Elementary School armed themselves with key information for a healthy holiday as well as a happy New Year. “The Germ City: Clean Hands, Healthy People Program” was presented through the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture. It is a science-based education program designed to improve the effectiveness and frequency of hand-washing behaviors in adults and children.
The students participated in Germ City in cooperation with their school nurse Kristy Evans.
“Hand-washing is often not taught or encouraged at some homes,” Evans said. “Many illnesses can be prevented with hand-washing. I am so thankful for our local Carroll County Extension Office for teaching our children about the necessity of good hand-washing.”
Researchers have shown that each hand may carry 10,000 to 10 million bacteria, Allen said. She provided some simples tips for preventing the spread of the flu, letting students know when they should wash their hands.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most important times for hand-washing are before preparing and eating food, treating wounds, administering medications, helping someone sick or injured or putting in or taking out contact lenses.
Allen said you should also wash your hands after preparing foods or handling raw meat and poultry, using the bathroom, changing a diaper or touching animals, their toys or waste. Other key times to wash hands, she said, are after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands, treating wounds or helping someone who is sick or injured and after handling garbage or household and garden chemicals.
Current recommendations, she said, call for coughing and sneezing into the bend of your arm.
“The students get so excited to see the inside of the germ city tent,” Allen said, “and see how the pretend germs are so easily spread. It is very effective in making students aware of the germs that are around them every day.”
She said proper hand-washing can protect against the spread of common illnesses, like the cold and flue. To properly wash your hands, she said, follow these simples steps:
1. Wet your hands with clean, running water.
2. Apply soap and continue to rub your hands together for 20 seconds (sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice or the ABCs once) and make sure you get the backs of your hands, between your fingers and underneath your fingernails.
3. Rinse your hands completely under running water.
4. Dry your hands completely using a clean towel or air-dry them.
A 20-second hand-washing may be the most important thing you do to protect yourself and your family against illness-causing germs this holiday season, she said.
“Spread love, not germs!” Allen advised.
For more information on this topic or others, contact the Carroll County Extension Office at 870-423-2958.