GENESEE — As an ultraviolet light passed over the hands of freshmen at Genesee High School, a chorus of “ooh” and “that’s grody” arose from the crowd.
Under the steady beam of a flashlight, the students’ hands lit up, depicting bright spots of uncleaned areas.
“I think we’re learning that they didn’t wash their hands very well,” science teacher Kirsten Dahl said with a laugh.
On Friday, the ninth grade students participated in a hand hygiene event at the high school, led by infectious disease doctor Anubhav Kanwar, of Tri-State Memorial Hospital in Clarkston.
As the peak of flu season approaches, Kanwar said proper hand-washing techniques are important to keep students healthy and to combat absences related to sickness.
“It’s a lifelong skill and it’s very valuable,” Kanwar said about proper hand hygiene. “It helps the kids protect themselves and others.”
Kanwar had students apply Glo Germ, a lotion that glows brightly when exposed to ultraviolet light, before conducting a series of tests.
Students who applied the lotion shook another classmate’s hand or passed around a pencil to demonstrate how bacteria and viruses travel.
The students were then asked to reapply the lotion and wash their hands, before Kanwar once again used the flashlight to show them what spots they had missed.
Dahl said hand hygiene is especially important in classes like hers focused on the sciences, but the lessons the kids learn go beyond the walls of a classroom.
“I talk a lot about safety with science and making sure we are not transferring chemicals,” Dahl said. “But we’re also constantly spreading diseases around from student to student and class to class. I think it’s important to talk about hand-washing.”
Dahl decided to host the event for her earth science and zoology classes after she was approached by Genesee senior Molly Hanson.
The 17-year-old job shadowed Kanwar last year. They’ve since formed a partnership to study hand hygiene within the school, which culminated in the event.
Hanson said her desire to help with the project was two-fold.
“During the flu season, it’s important for people to be healthy, but I also think it’s really important to get kids introduced to different careers in research and medicine,” said Hanson, who would like to become a nurse practitioner.
As for Kanwar, he hopes to bring the vital lessons of good hand hygiene to more students in and around the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. It was the first time he brought the lessons into a classroom.
“It gives me satisfaction to engage with the students and share this knowledge with them,” Kanwar said after his first of two sessions spurred a lot of participation and questions from the students.
Kanwar encouraged students, and others, to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, paying special attention to areas deep between the fingers and to include the fingertips — two spots that are often overlooked.
He also said it’s especially important to wash one’s hands with soap and water before and after eating, after using the restroom or handling a pet, or when someone’s hands are visibly soiled.
In other instances, Kanwar said hand sanitizer is just as effective as soap and water.
Tomtas may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.