40pc of Irish E. coli cases occur in children under four: Here’s how to protect your family
Young children will inevitably pick up bugs or get sick but parents can play an important part in protecting them from the likes of E. coli, according to a new campaign by safefood.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning bugs as they inevitably touch everything within arm’s reach and they tend not to be too concerned with personal hygiene. A previous study of E. coli in Ireland found that 40pc of cases occurred in children under the age of four.
For parents, the big concern is that young children under five-years-of-age are particularly at risk of infection from the likes of E. coli. That’s because their immune systems aren’t properly developed and poor hygiene or handwashing habits can cause the infection to spread, particularly if children don’t wash their hands properly after using the bathroom.
This can then cause the infection to spread among family members, supervising adults or other children. So what can you do to keep you little ones safe and reduce the risk in your home?
New safefood handwashing campaign
A new campaign from safefood is urging parents to adopt better handwashing habits and to teach their children the proper way to wash their hands. For adults, the best defence against E. coli is to wash your hands in warm, soapy water after handling raw meat or poultry. You also need to wash any knives or chopping boards too, especially if they’ve come into contact with raw meat or poultry.
As any parent knows, most young children will do their best to avoid washing their hands or try to get away with a “splash and dash” approach. However, a quick rinse is not enough to prevent the potential spread of infections, according to safefood. If children don’t dry their hands after washing, it can also cause germs to breed in the moisture and these will be easily spread to anything that they touch.
“Wipes and hand sanitisers are handy,” according to a safefood spokesperson. “They’re not soap and water and just don't work the same way.” When it comes to hand hygiene, only soap and water will do.
It’s not just about getting children to wash their hands. It’s also about when you get them to wash their hands. So the best times are after using the toilet, after playing (whether indoors or outdoors), after handling pets and before they eat.
The same rules apply to mums and dads, who can overestimate how often they wash their hands or take shortcuts when handling or preparing food. Following these simple steps can greatly reduce the risk of an E. Coli infection in your home.
The return of Rufus
As part of the campaign, safefood’s handwashing mascot Rufus is back to teach your kids the best way to wash their hands. This messy monster has released a video to help spread the message and he’ll also be getting the word out in day-care and pre-schools across the island of Ireland.
The aim is to teach children (and a few adults!) the five steps to good handwashing. The best way to keep E. coli at bay is to establish good handwashing habits with your kids… and the same goes for mums and dads.
5 steps for clean hands
1. Wet their hands with water.
2. Add soap and show them how to rub their hands until a lather forms all over.
3. Rub their palms, backs, wrists, fingers, nails and between their fingers to remove dirt and germs.
4. Rinse the soap off their hands completely with running water.
5. Dry - show them how to dry their hands thoroughly using a clean hand towel (not a tea towel or their clothes) or a hand dryer if they’re out and about.
For more information, check out the safefood handwashing guidelines on their website.