Children should be taught how to wash hands, says The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
Children and young people need to be taught how to wash their hands properly to reduce the risk of infection, a UK medicines watchdog has advised.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said good handwashing and drying techniques should be encouraged to help lower the likelihood of spreading germs and therefore limit the use of antibiotics.
The guidance also calls for teenagers attending university to be taught how to care for themselves if they contract a “self-limiting illness” such as cold or flu.
The charity Meningitis Now warned that first-time students, who were often vulnerable to contracting the potentially deadly illness, must be vigilant over their symptoms because meningitis could easily be mistaken for cold or flu.
Health authorities across the world are trying to reduce antibiotic use to slow the growth of antimicrobial resistance.
The Nice guidance says university students should be shown how to identify illnesses that will get better on their own. They should also be encouraged to use pharmacies, the 111 helpline and the NHS Choices website, it said.
The watchdog recommends that posters be displayed around campus explaining how to wash hands effectively.
Similarly, children at nurseries and schools should be taught good hygiene, particularly after going to the toilet, before eating and after being in close contact with people with colds or other infections, Nice said.
Liquid soap and tepid running water should be used to clean hands after touching a bin.
Other measures to reduce the risk of illness include ensuring food and leftovers are stored in the fridge, cooked at the right temperature and properly heated through.
Prof Dame Sally Davies, the government’s chief medical officer, said: “We need to address the growing problem of drug-resistant infections as the global medicine cabinet is becoming increasingly bare.
“Preventing infections is key and so is education on how to use antibiotics appropriately. This guidance provides important information on how we can keep these important medicines working.”
Rachel Robinson, acting chief executive at Meningitis Now, said good hand hygiene was needed to combat disease but warned of the dangers of self-diagnosis.
“Asking people to self-diagnose and take a view on the seriousness of their illness is a difficult area,” she said. “While meningitis is a relatively rare disease, its early symptoms, such as fever, headache or vomiting, can easily be … misdiagnosed, even by medical professionals.
“People with meningitis can get a lot worse very quickly and we know rapid diagnosis and treatment significantly improve outcomes. We wouldn’t want people to think they should try to manage this themselves.”