Newswise — As the beginning of the school year approaches, parents need to remind their children about the importance of hand washing. Every day people touch several surfaces including books, desks, door knobs, sink handles, and other people and of them harbor germs like bacteria and viruses that can cause illnesses.

According to approximately 80% of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch. The CDC reports that the simple act of hand washing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of viral and bacterial infections.

Dr. Beverly Connelly, Division of Infectious Diseases, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, says that hand washing is the number one defense against many infections. It’s especially important after using the bathroom and before eating.

Connelly says washing for 20 seconds with soap and water is best; but hand sanitizers also work well against most germs. “Germs get left everywhere! Good hand hygiene practices help prevent catching colds and respiratory viral infections, stomach bugs and diarrhea, as well as MRSA and other skin infections. Make hand hygiene a practice you and your family PRACTICE everyday.”

Some tips to make hand washing second nature for your child:

• Make sure your child understands why it’s important to wash her hands. • Set a good example by establishing a good hand washing routine at home. • Emphasize that the most important times to wash hands are after using the bathroom, sneezing or blowing their nose and before eating. • When washing her hands with soap and water, make sure she scrubs her hands together for at least 20 seconds. When using hand sanitizer make sure she rubs the product over all the surfaces of her hands and fingers until her hands are dry. • Pack individual packets of hand sanitizer wipes in your child’s lunch so she can wash her hands before eating. • Learn about the hand hygiene practices at your child’s school. Are there soap dispensers in the bathrooms? Hand sanitizer bottles in the classrooms? Do teachers make sure kids wash their hands before lunch or snack time?

About Cincinnati Children’s Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S.News and World Report’s 2014 Best Children’s Hospitals. It is also ranked in the top 10 for all 10 pediatric specialties. Cincinnati Children’s, a non-profit organization, is one of the top three recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health, and a research and teaching affiliate of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The medical center is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at Connect on the Cincinnati Children’s blog, via Facebook and on Twitter.