Child Health

The DO-IT- Yourself Vaccine

The two biggest causes of childhood mortality in the developing world today are diarrheal disease and respiratory tract infections. The simple act of washing hands with soap can reduce diarrhoeal risk by almost half, and respiratory tract infection by a third. 

Hand washing interrupts the transmission of disease agents and so can significantly reduce diarrhoea and respiratory infections, as well as skin infections. Hand washing with soap should be a universal act.

Hand washing with soap is an essential do-it-yourself vaccine. Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. It is also a simple way of protecting your family and children. Washing hands with soap and water are the best way to reduce the number of germs on them in most situations. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Even if your hands appear to be clean, they may carry germs. Hands pick up germs in a number of ways. Germs can spread through:

  • touching dirty hands
  • touching contaminated surfaces
  • changing dirty diapers
  • contaminated water and food
  • droplets in the air released during a cough or sneeze
  • touching contaminated surfaces
  • contact with a sick person’s body fluids


When should you wash your hands?

Hand washing with soap at key times is an effective thing you can do to protect yourself and children against infectious diseases, such as influenza (the “flu”), common cold, diarrhoea, typhoid, cholera, worm infestations and skin infections.

Critical times to wash your hands include:

  1. Before, during, and after preparing food
  2. Before eating food
  3. Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  4. Before and after treating a cut or wound
  5. After using the toilet
  6. After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  7. After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  8. After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  9. After handling pet food or pet treats
  10. After touching garbage

How to wash your hands

 Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.


Using soap to wash hands is more effective than using water alone because the surfactants in soap lift soil and microbes from the skin. Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands; therefore, hands should be dried after washing. Studies suggest that using a clean towel or air drying hands are best. If you have children, teach them good hygiene and how to wash their hands properly.


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Dr. Chisom Okoye
Dr Chisom Okoye is a medical doctor with over four years’ experience in Child health. She believes that health education is vital in promoting positive health attitude among parents or care givers because children are affected greatly by their decisions, activities and inactivity. She is also very passionate about making the dreams of children from less privileged homes becoming future professionals a reality through promoting access to quality health care and education; thereby creating equal opportunities for every child.

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