Anytime there are groups of children sharing a common space, germ-passing is inevitable. Studies suggest that children who are cared for in childcare centers are sick more often than kids who are cared for at home. And if you’re not careful, your childcare center can become a stomping ground for the types of microorganisms that cause common childhood illnesses.
Some of the most common illnesses transmitted in childcare settings include strep, ringworm, pinkeye, flu, and the common cold. Children under the age of 5 are more susceptible to these illnesses because of their immature immune systems. Unfortunately, youngsters are going to spread germs when they cough, sneeze, wipe their noses, touch common surfaces, interact with each other, and share toys. But with diligent sanitation and hygienic practices you can minimize the spread of germs, and reduce the number of illnesses in your childcare.
Wash Hands Often
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand washing is the single most effective way to control the spread of illnesses in school and childcare settings. So both children and providers should wash their hands:
- before preparing food
- before eating
- before and after diapering
- after handling soiled clothes
- after using the bathroom
- after coming into contact with any bodily fluids
- after being outside
- after handling commonly shared toys
Children and adults should wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 to 30 seconds, or about the length of time it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song, two times. If soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used. However, hand sanitizer is not a substitute for routine hand washing.
Wear Disposable Latex Gloves When Handling Bodily Fluids
Childcare professionals come into contact with bodily fluids everyday. So in addition to proper hand washing, wear disposable latex gloves when you change diapers, handle soiled clothing, wipe noses, help children in the toilet, and treat injuries. Not only are you protecting yourself and the children in your care from commonly transmitted illnesses, you are also minimizing the risk of E. coli, hand, foot and mouth disease, and blood-borne pathogens such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.
Sanitize Toys, Bathrooms, and Common Surfaces Regularly
Never pass toys that have been in a child’s mouth around for other kids to play with. Instead, place these toys aside in a bin or plastic bag until you’ve had the chance to sanitize them properly. Some quick ways to sanitize teething rings and other slobber-infested toys are to wash them in the dishwasher, or put the toys in a mesh bag and dip them in a sink filled with a bleach-water solution (1 tbsp. of bleach per gallon of water).
Wipe nonporous surfaces such changing tables and eating tables down with a fresh bleach-water solution after each use. Soak manipulative toys such as Legos and pegs in bleach-water once a week. Wash teddy bears, dress up clothes, fabric toys, and covers in hot water once a week. Wipe down door knobs weekly. And clean the bathrooms twice a day, more often if needed.
Germs in childcare settings are unavoidable. But with proper hygiene and sanitation practices, the spread of illness-causing microorganisms can be minimized.