Nearly two-fifths of parents have admitted it’s still a battle to get their children to wash their hands after using the toilet.
A poll of 2,000 adults found that of those with children aged 3-16, nearly a third said their offspring also won’t remember to wash their hands after coughing. And despite the recent emphasis on the importance of hand washing, 43 per cent of parents still have to remind their children to clean their hands before touching or eating food.
As a result, more than eight in 10 are concerned about their youngster’s hand hygiene as they prepare to return to school. And 47 per cent worry their kids will bring germs back home with them.
The study was commissioned by hygiene soap brand, Lifebuoy, in partnership with the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) to reinforce the need to make sure good hand washing habits stick.
Working in partnership with Lifebuoy, medical expert and NHS Doctor, Dr Ranj Singh said: “It’s great that hand-washing has been taken more seriously over the last few months as it’s been shown to be one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of germs and bacteria.
“This research shows the message around frequent hand-washing has sunk in with adults – but even they are unsure of the most important times to wash their hands.
“There is even more work to be done with children. Forming good habits when young is critical in helping to reduce the spread of infection – particularly as kids head back to school.
“This is where parents can help support their kids by setting a good example and teaching them about the important times for hand-washing.”
The study also found that even though kids still need a lot of reminding, the message seems to have sunk in with adults, as more than a third (38 per cent) claim to wash or sanitise their hands 11 times a day or more. This is almost double the six times they would wash their hands pre-pandemic.
Despite parents’ efforts, the study also found that 16 per cent of them worry they aren’t always setting the perfect example for their kids.
In fact, 58 per cent of the adults polled said they don’t wash their hands after using their phone – despite the germs they harbour, according to the OnePoll research.
Alongside its partners, Lifebuoy is launching a programme to educate primary school children on the benefits of hand washing as well as distributing free hand hygiene kits to schools.
These will include learning materials and tools to help teach children about hand hygiene and instil good habits.
Chris Barron, VP beauty and personal care Unilever UK&I, said: “With the increased risk of infection as we head out and about more, hand-washing is still the first line of defence against COVID-19.
“Our research shows us that parents are taking the time to teach their kids the importance of hand-washing as little ones are still confused about when and how to wash their hands.
“This is why it’s even more important that we support schools and teachers by providing easy to use information that helps kids get into good hand-washing habits.”
Duncan Stephenson, deputy chief executive at RSPH said: “Hands are one of the riskiest sites and surfaces for infection transmission, so practising good hand hygiene is an incredibly effective way to reduce the spread of infection.
“As schools begin to go back we share parents’ concerns that children should also be encouraged to practice good hand hygiene – yet it is clear they are not sure how.
“Alongside parents, schools have a vital role to play in encouraging children to practice good hand hygiene.”