Electric hand dryers are a very controversial invention of the last century.
The manufacturers of those devices claim they’re the most hygienic way to dry our hands in public restrooms. After all, we don’t touch or press any button to get it to work.
Now, the scary news is that according to research, electric hand dryers can spread more bacteria than were originally on people’s hands!
These “additional” bacteria and viruses come from the air circulating in the public loos containing the tiny droplets from flushing it…
Additionally, most kids across the globe seem to hate them.
Which makes family outings and potential visits to a public restroom with a newly potty-trained offspring somewhat problematic.
So, let’s discuss why our kiddies hate hand dryers. And what can we do to persuade them to use the public loo with the scary machine in it?
Why Do Toddlers Hate Hand Dryers In Public Toilets?
Public toilets terrify most toddlers and young children. That’s because of hand dryers and the loud noise it produces. Also, children aren’t overly keen on being blown up with hot air on their faces. Whilst most of them will outgrow this fear by the time they turn 6, in the meantime, you can try the following techniques to ensure the visits to the public loos are more bearable. 1) Use accessible toilets 2) Or portable potty. 3) Go behind bushes for a wee. 4) Get your child earmuffs to block some of the noise. 5) Try to create a distraction when in the loo. 6) Alternatively, switch off the dreading machine or stick to its “out of order” sign to prevent anyone from using it.
Hand Dryers are Way Too Noisy
The primary reason your offspring may resent hand dryers is that they are extremely loud!
I mean, it’s like a jet engine taking off loud!
And the latest models of hand driers – those that dry hands within 10 seconds are the noisiest too. Some of them are louder than 100 decibels!
(FYI – 75 decibels is a limit set by the World Health Organisation for the maximum noise level allowed for toys.)
Given most kids are sensitive to noise (or have reduced tolerance for loudness), no wonder many kids under six flip out or get hysterical when they hear a hand dryer.
OR other distressing sounds such as blenders, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, motorcycles, fireworks or even balloon popping!
All these are unpleasant noises, and most kids (not only those with autism spectrum disorder) will react by covering their ears with their hands to avoid the sound. And will flee the noisy place as fast as they can!
(For those of you whose kids can’t stand vacuum cleaners, see the below video. It will give you a few ideas on how to handle the situation 🙂
Helping Your Child With Loud Noises
It Takes Them By Surprise
So, imagine your toddler happily sitting on a toilet in one of many cubicles in the public restroom. Suddenly, they hear the noise of the hand dryer used by another toilet user.
How do they react?
Well, they get petrified and even startled by this unexpected deafening blast!
Because this sudden, blasting noise comes as an unpleasant surprise…
Hot Air Blows Straight To Their Faces
Have you noticed that in most public restrooms (if not all), the hand driers stand at children’s height or above their heads?
This means that the noise is even louder for a child, who must stand a few centimetres from the machine for it to work. And whose head is literally next to this air-blowing machine. Provided they are brave enough to use the hand dryer themselves.
In addition to this trauma, the blast of hot air blowing directly into their faces isn’t fun either. Giving them yet another reason to hate that thing.
So What Can I Do To Persuade My Child To Use Public Restroom Without Public Melt Down?
Well, the obvious thing to do would be to AVOID using toilets fitted with hand dryers where possible.
And stick to the ones that have good old-fashioned paper towels.
This may be rather tricky if you are out and about, especially on holidays in unknown places…
Trying to hold wee or poo isn’t a good idea either. Besides being uncomfortable, it can also be harmful and have many unpleasant side effects, such as constipation.
But there are few other strategies you could try that may help your little one overcome the trauma of visiting public toilets
1. Use Portable Stand-Alone Potty For Outdoor Use
I appreciate it may feel like taking a step back after so much effort to potty train your toddler.
But if you consider the benefits of using a travel potty – such as avoiding meltdown in a fancy restaurant loo or in a shopping mall – perhaps it’s worth trying.
These very practical gadgets come with disposable leak-proof liners, are easy to assemble, use, throw the content of the liner, and fold away.
And they can be used literally anywhere: in the car, at the car park or in some quiet corner.
2. Behind The Bushes And In The Woods
Another alternative to a public toilet is to go behind the bushes or trees when these are available in proximity to you.
Of course, I don’t recommend leaving your restaurant or supermarket (which has a public loo) and trying to find bushes instead.
(Although, I know it may tempt some desperate parents).
Anyhow, it may not be a socially acceptable practice, but sometimes, there is very little you can do when your child has to go – right now.
And still, it is probably a better alternative than wetting their pants!
3. Use Accessible Toilet
Whilst there are no laws regulating accessible toilets (who is allowed to use them and who isn’t) – I do realize rushing a toddler to such a facility may not be politically or morally correct.
However, in case of an emergency, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it!
The undeniable benefits of such facilities are privacy and intimacy; no one besides you can set the hand dryer on!
4. Create Distraction
However, if you make it to the public loo with a dreading hand dryer, try diverting your child’s attention to other, more pleasing noises.
If you are brave enough, you can sing your toddler’s favourite songs really loudly in a cubicle to distract them from the noise of the hand dryer.
Ok, it doesn’t need to be singing. You can talk loudly, tell a story or perhaps put some music on your phone.
Whatever works for you and your frightened child.
5. Earmuffs Can Do The Trick
Another ace in your pocket you can try is using earmuffs to cover your kiddo’s ears whilst visiting a public loo.
Like the ones I mentioned in my post: How To Stop Baby Ears From Popping On A Plane Journey?
Even though they won’t completely block the noise, they will give your child the perception they need (ever heard of a placebo effect?) and reassurance.
So pop a pair of fashionable, fluffy earmuffs into your bag when you are out. Earmuffs may just be the answer to those joyful toilet trips.
6. Turn Off The Hand-dryer Or stick on the “Out Of Order” sign
Ok, this one is on an extreme side, so perhaps only use it when you are really desperate and if you can actually be bothered…
So, basically prevent anyone from using hand dryers by either turning them off (so cutting them off of the power supply) at the switch or carrying around the „out of order” sign and attaching it to the dryer.
It may be tricky and require some logistics and planning.
Sometimes it may not be practicable in a large and busy public restroom.
However, in less busy facilities with one or two hand dryers – may not be a bad idea!
Just remember to clear out the signs and switch the thing on afterwards…
7. They Will Outgrow It
Ok, I know it is not exactly a helpful tip (or any tip, really, so I don’t count it). But you should know that your child eventually outgrows the noise phobia!
Because, for the great majority of kids, the fear of loud noises is part of their normal development. And it is also mild, short-lived anxiety.
So, try to put up with it a little longer.
By the time your kiddo turns 6, all the negative emotions and reactions associated with loud noise should be over.
Final Few Lines
It is indeed quite problematic to deal with a toddler who points blank and refuses to go to a public loo. Especially if they have to go NOW.
Visiting public toilets can be scary and overwhelming to sensitive kiddies. Specifically, those noisy hand driers blowing hot air straight in their faces.
Thankfully, their fear of loud noise will significantly diminish by the age of 6.
Until then, you can try using accessible toilets or portable potty, going behind bushes for a wee, getting your child earmuffs to block some of the noise, try to create a distraction when in the loo. Alternatively, switch off the dreading machine or stick the “out of order” sign to it to prevent anyone from using it.