Meet Henry the Hand: A crusading doctor's right-hand man

by Serena Gordon, Healthday Reporter
Meet henry the hand: A crusading doctor's right-hand man
Cartoon character helps physician spread the gospel of good hand hygiene.

(HealthDay)—When Dr. Will Sawyer, an infection prevention specialist, dropped off his young children at day care in the late 1980s, he saw something most parents rarely notice: germs, and lots of them.

To Sawyer, happy kids playing with other and toys meant the potential spread of infectious diseases, like the flu and . He knew then that he had to come up with a fun way to teach his children good . What he didn't know was that 25 years later, he'd still be teaching children how to avoid catching illnesses that are spread via hands.

To do this, he created a cartoon character named Henry the Hand, picking a hand because hands play such a significant role in the spread of . When hands touch a surface or someone else's hand, they can pick up viruses and bacteria. If those hands then touch eyes, nose or mouth before they're washed, the germs have a quick route into the body, where they'll make the person sick.

To lessen the chance of catching such bugs, "Henry" taught Sawyer's kids four important principles of hand hygiene awareness:

  • Wash your hands whenever they're dirty and always before eating
  • Do not cough into your hands
  • Do not sneeze into your hands
  • Above all, do not put your fingers into your eyes, nose or mouth (the "T" zone)

Sawyer and his cartoon-hand sidekick soon started teaching their principles of hand awareness at daycare centers and schools. "Henry" was soon invited to medical conferences.

Asked if he was the one who wore the Henry the Hand costume at public events, Sawyer coyly answered, "Nobody knows who Superman is."

Today, Sawyer, who lives in Cincinnati, has five costumes that he sends around the country to school and community events. He has also started a new program for that lets them earn community service hours for teaching about the importance of good hand hygiene.

"We want to get everybody at their schools and in their communities to talk to each other about hand-washing behaviors," Sawyer said. "Let's get the word out and reduce the number of flu and flu-like illnesses."

More information: Read this HealthDay story to learn why hand hygiene is so important to your health.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Health Check: Should I use antibacterial hand sanitisers?

Jan 14, 2014

I should start by saying that an important part of my job is encouraging hospital staff to clean their hands. The World Health Organisation has a global patient safety campaign reminding us that Clean Hands S ...

Hand hygiene -- clean hands, healthy body

Dec 16, 2011

Our hands are one of the chief ways we interact with our environment. Think about what you touch daily – doors, desks, food, other people, pets. Hundreds or thousands of other people have often touched ...

Farm and germ education go hand in hand

Oct 16, 2013

School children demonstrated significantly increased knowledge of germ spread and prevention on a farm after working on an interactive lesson about microbes. Published October 16, 2013, in the open-access journal PLOS ON ...

Cough and sneeze into elbows, not hands

Apr 01, 2013

NSW Health authorities should withdraw advertisements urging people to cover their coughs and sneezes with their hands and instead tell people to use their inner elbow, according to a letter to the editor ...

Safe ways to relieve your young child's flu symptoms

Jan 11, 2013

(HealthDay)—Flu season is especially bad in the United States this year, and young children with the flu tend to suffer more than others because they can't take over-the-counter medications to help relieve ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

22 hours ago

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

Oct 24, 2014

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

Hand blenders used for cooking can emit persistent chemicals

Oct 24, 2014

Eight out of twelve tested models of hand blenders are leaking chlorinated paraffins when used according to the suppliers' instructions. This is revealed in a report from Stockholm University where researchers analyzed a ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

alfie_null
not rated yet Jan 18, 2014
How are Sawyer's kids doing WRT autoimmune disorders? Lots of folks on the other side saying that keeping kids in a highly sterile environment is not optimal.