Farm visits: two reports advocate the importance of soap and water hand washing

Encourage children to wash their hands on farm visits

Gels and wipes do not provide effective hand hygiene say experts

Farms visits and animal attractions are wonderful ways for young children to get out and about and learn about the countryside. Petting zoos also provide huge enjoyment for youngsters.

To ensure that everyone keeps safe and to minimise the risk of contracting potentially serious illnesses, there is one activity that everyone should undertake properly – hand washing with soap and water, according to medical experts in the neighbouring Midlands counties of Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

Warwickshire County Council recently posted a guidance story called The importance of hand hygiene when visiting animal attractions, which warned of increases at this time of year of illnesses such as E. coli and cryptosporidium. Infections are caused by hands which have been contaminated by touching animals or contaminated surfaces, which can then be “accidentally passed to your mouth” says the article.

A Health Protection Consultant leading on environmental issues for UKHSA West Midlands, Paul Fisher, shared his enthusiasm for hugely beneficial outdoor activities such as farm visits. The percentage risk of being infected by bugs (that can be passed to and spreads amongst humans) “is proportionally quite small”, he said – whilst emphasising that those unfortunate incidents that do occur can be minimised by effective hand washing.

“Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water immediately after you’ve had contact with animals and before eating or drinking will reduce the risk of infection.”

Mr Fisher also emphasised how important it is not to reply on hand gels for protection from these illnesses.

“Don’t use gels or wipes instead of soap and water, as these are not a substitute for washing your hands.”

It’s important to make the most of washing facilities that all farms will make available he said.

Reinforcing the importance of soap and water washing

Similarly, a report on the Bromsgrove Standard website ‘Don’t let stomach bugs ruin your farm fun this summer’ says county council quoted the Director of Public Health for Worcestershire County Council.

Dr Lisa McNally was also most enthusiastic about the benefits of getting out into the county’s “lovely countryside” and stated that “visiting a farm is wonderful, especially with children”.

But she was also keen to remind readers about the need to be diligent with hand hygiene.

“Every year a small number of people may become ill but this can be avoided by washing our hands really well.

“This means using soap and warm water after contact with animals and especially before consuming food and drinks.”

She also warned about the false sense of security that some people enjoy by using wipes of gels – which are simply not up to the job.

“Hand gels or wipes are not a substitute for washing your hands as they don’t kill all bugs.”

The WashStand Xtra handwash unit for farms and visitor centres
The WashStand Xtra handwash unit for farms and visitor centres

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