Did you know that October 15th is Global Hand Washing Day? No? Well, neither did I, but now that I know, I will be celebrating it!
For kids with food allergies, hand washing is a lifesaver, literally!
It keeps them safe from accidental exposure and ingestion of their allergen. In school, hand washing is key as it allows them to be included in their classrooms. This is especially important for the pre-k through 6th crowd. Have you ever watched a 5 year olds hands for 5 minutes? How many times did they wiggle a tooth, pick their nose, touch their face, or rub their eyes? I have read many places that on average an adult will touch their face 2-4 times a minute. Being less self aware, and less self conscious, a child will not only touch his or her face, but also, pick their nose, wiggle their loose teeth, and rub their eyes. Sometimes they do all three at once! When it comes to food allergies, clean hands prevent exposure, and save lives.
Hand washing takes time! Can alcohol based hand sanitizers work instead?
Unfortunately, no, they can not. Hand sanitizers work great for germs, and bacteria, but they do not get rid of food proteins. All hand sanitizers do for food proteins is rub them around.
There was a study published in the Journal of Allergy, and Clinical Immunology that showed that peanut protein is hardy, and can stay on your hands for three hours or more without hand washing. In an earlier study it was shown that peanut protein can stay on a hard surface seemingly indefinitely if not properly cleaned up. Without hand washing, even if the food is not eaten in the classroom, it can be brought into the classroom three hours or more after it was eaten. Read the studies here: www.jacionline.org
Many parents of kids with food allergies look for ways to help their child's school create, and maintain an inclusive, and safe environment. Who knew that something as simple and healthy as hand washing could be the answer? Good old fashioned hand washing is key! Many organizations suggest implementing hand washing in classrooms to provide that safe and inclusive environment. Both the National School Board Association (NSBA), and the nationally recognized Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) organization suggests classrooms with allergic students implement consistent hand washing before, and after food is handled.
Read FARE's guide for parents here: http://www.foodallergy.org/document.doc?id=123
Read the NSBA's school guidelines for food allergic children here: http://www.nsba.org/foodallergyguide.pdf