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How to Help Students Avoid the “Winter-Hand Blues”

Posted by GOJO® on February 14, 2022

Do your kids suffer from dry, damaged, irritated hands as the weather grows colder? If so, they’re not alone. Winter weather is not fun for skin; cold weather, low humidity, and indoor heating create dry air, which steals moisture away from the skin every second of every day.Unfortunately, the weather is only part of the problem. Repeated handwashing to keep winter germs at bay also wreaks havoc on already fragile hands. There are reasons why children, especially young children, may be at higher risk of developing dry, irritated, cracked hands.

Hand washing

Without immediate and ongoing care, children’s dry skin can worsen. Continued exposure to harsh winter wind and indoor heat – combined with frequent handwashing with harsh cleansers – makes the problem spiral out of control. The result is painful, cracked skin, a condition where germs are more likely to enter the body. Unfortunately, many children avoid washing painful, cracked hands, leaving them even more vulnerable to germs that are commonly found in the winter months. And of course, if kids are not washing their hands, it’s also possible to spread germs to other objects and individuals inside and outside the home, perpetuating the germ cycle.

There’s not much we can do about the weather and practicing frequent hand hygiene is certainly a must in today’s world. Luckily there are some ways to avoid the “winter-hand blues.” Here are a few tips from GOJO® to help protect vulnerable little hands:

Choose a gentle soap. 

Many soaps contain harsh detergents such as sodium dodecyl (lauryl) sulfate – which can strip natural oils from the skin, making them look and feel dry and irritated. Instead, choose a mild hand soap containing moisturizing and soothing ingredients like glycerin, ceramides, natural oils, vitamin E, or aloe vera.

Use lukewarm water. 

Hot water may strip skin’s natural skin oils more quickly and further dry and irritate hands. When washing their hands, children should use warm water.

Apply moisturizers after washing. 

The best time to moisturize is before hands start showing signs of dryness, flaking/itching, redness, or cracking. If possible, throughout the day, apply a light moisturizer to lock in moisture after washing hands. Consider adding a travel-size bottle of lotion to your student's backpack or in classrooms. These moisturizers will soak in and hydrate skin overnight.

>> Click to view GOJO® cooperative contract through OMNIA Partners, Public Sector. <<

Wear gloves. 

It’s important to keep little hands warm and protected from the harsh elements, so make sure kids wear gloves or mittens when outside. The cold air and blustery winds can quickly dry out their skin. Keeping their hands covered helps limit moisture evaporation and protects their skin from the cold, dry air.

Pat dry – don’t rub. 

In the winter, it’s important to treat skin gently when washing and drying hands. Drying is important for germ removal but, avoid rubbing skin vigorously, as friction between the towel and skin may cause damage. Instead, gently pat or dab hands dry.

Avoid unnecessary allergens and irritants.

If your student suffers from eczema, dermatitis, or psoriasis, you may want to avoid allergens and irritants that may worsen the condition, which frequently flares in the winter months. Fragrance-free, in particular, might be a good option.

Consider using hand sanitizer instead of soap when hands aren’t visibly soiled. 

Soap and water rinse away soils but also can strip the natural, protective oils in the skin, causing it to dry out. Well-formulated hand sanitizers contain moisturizing ingredients like glycerin or skin softeners – called emollients – to keep moisture in. 

Hand Experiments


Share this information with your students in an age-appropriate way to help create lasting habits to keep skin looking and feeling good throughout the year. Check out this handwashing experiment to try in the classroom. Click the image to download.

About GOJO® and OMNIA Partners

GOJO® products are available to participants of OMNIA Partners on competitively solicited, publicly awarded cooperative contracts through your favorite distributor. GOJO's collection of offerings includes janitorial & sanitation products, supplies & related services. To view the entire OMNIA Partners contract portfolio, click here. To request more information about GOJO, click here.

Topics: Facilities & Infrastructure, K-12 Education