Chilmark students practice handwashing

Using special lotion, students see which spots they missed while washing their hands.

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Amid concerns about the potential spread of the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, Chilmark School is having its students practice their handwashing technique with a special lotion that shows how germs can linger on hands.

Principal Susan Stevens ordered Glo Germ Gel, a simulated germ lotion that lights up under a blacklight, so students would be able to see which parts of their hands they miss even after using soap and water.

Before snack time and recess, students in Ellen Rossi’s K-1 class gathered in a circle as school nurse Justine Begley gave everyone a dollop of lotion to rub all over their hands. Not knowing the lotion was going to reveal simulated germs, students then washed and dried their hands before Begley came back around and shined the blacklight on them.

Wide-eyed and amazed, students saw the white glow of the lotion on their hands where they didn’t scrub enough, especially between their fingers, around their finger nails, and on the backs of their hands.

After looking at their hands students reviewed how to practice better hand washing such as singing “Happy Birthday” twice while scrubbing, washing hands before eating and after going to the bathroom, and not forgetting to wash fingernails by rubbing them against their palms. 

The Center for Disease Control has a handwashing website — cdc.gov/handwashing — that details best practices for keeping clean:

  • 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. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel, or air dry them.

If soap and water are not available, the CDC recommends using hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content.

This reporter found he needs to do a better job washing his hands, as well. After applying the lotion and scrubbing hands with soap and water, there was plenty of white glow under the blacklight, especially around my fingernails and the backs of my hands.