Wash Your Hands With Elmo: Stay Healthy, Wash Your Hands!

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

(Updated 2/24/20)

Elmo helps kids to protect themselves and to keep germs away.

Elmo the adorable Sesame Street character who has been a house-hold staple for many years, teaches children about the importance of hand washing and staying healthy.

In an effort to prevent the spread of the swine flu, The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), teamed up with the popular children’s show Sesame Street to help spread the word about healthy habits to children and their families.

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Gordon and Elmo help spread the word!

Elmo, you can do it!

Teaching hand washing is nothing new, but it’s a step that often gets skipped.  If parents, teachers, nurses, doctors and other health care professionals haven’t been successful in teaching healthy habits about hand washing, then maybe Elmo will be the one to change things.

Elmo with his pal Gordon

Here’s a quick peek into how the public service announcement plays out:

Elmo begins, “It’s time to practice staying healthy on Sesame Street.”
Gordon, “That’s right, now in order to stay healthy always wash your hands.
Elmo, “Come on! Practice washing your hands with Elmo!
Elmo sings, ““Wash, wash, wash, wash, wash, wash!”
Gordon, “Keep washing and you’ll stay…”
Elmo and Gordon, “…happy and healthy on Sesame Street!”

20 Seconds

Well, it’s a :20 spot that talks about hand washing but it doesn’t teach the children exactly how hand washing should be done. Plus, it doesn’t mention the use of hand sanitizers.  The attempt is good and maybe the children will remember the red fuzzy adorable Elmo singing, “Wash, wash, wash, wash, wash, wash!”

I know, I must sound like a broken record by now since I frequently talk and write about the importance of hand washing.  If hand washing is the single most effective way to keep germs at bay, constantly repeating the message isn’t a bad thing.

10 Simple Steps for Proper Hand Washing

  1. Wet your hands with warm running water
  2. Apply soap.
  3. Rub hands together vigorously to make a soapy lather.
  4. Rub all surfaces including your wrists, between your fingers, back of your hands and under your fingernails and cuticles, and around any rings.
  5. Rub your hands for 15-20 seconds.
  6. No timer is needed; just imagine singing “Happy Birthday” x 2.
  7. Rinse your hands well.
  8. Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer.
  9. Use your paper towel to turn off the faucet if possible.
  10. Always use soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.

Alcohol Based Hand Sanitizers Get an A+

If soap and water are not available using the alcohol based hand sanitizers work great.  Kids can carry them in their backpack, lunch bag and pencil case.

Cheering for Elmo

Good luck Elmo spreading the message about hand washing.  Children have looked up to you for many years and they adore you.  Educating children and their families about prevention is a great step!

For more info check out Flu.gov.

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    Here’s another tip on handwashing that’s perfect to share with children, courtesy of scrubsmag.com nurse blogger, Rebekah Child, RN: “Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice and you’ve successfully met the mark for the recommended amount of time for sudsing up!”

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