Reducing Illness In Child Care

Many parents are undoubtedly breathing a sigh of relief now that the miserable winter weather is over and along with it the constant barrage of colds, flu and every other virus under the sun.

While they may get a bit of a break, unless the daycare center or home employs a few basic hygiene and cleaning particles, the germs that have been causing havoc all winter  are going to continue their rampage.

What's worse, new germs that come into the center everyday from the children of varying families will add to the problem already at hand.  And with over 100 different cold viruses just waiting to grab hold of a new victim, the cycle of one cold after another may never end.  "The basic solution to reducing the risk of illness is really quite simple,"  says Janet Brown McCracken in her brochure KEEPING HEALTHY Parents, Teachers and Children (NAEYC). "Germs thrive in warm, wet, and stuffy places. Clean, dry places are much less likely to harbor them. You can help keep germs from spreading by keeping your hands and your surroundings as clean and dry as possible.

Hand Washing

According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, hand washing is the single most effective way of reducing the spread of infection. To be effective however, hand washing must be done properly and frequently.


1)   Use soap and warm running water.        
2)   Wet your hands and add soap.     
3)   Rub your hands vigorously for 5 to 10 seconds.      
4)   Wash all surfaces, including the backs of hands and between       fingers.   
5)   Rinse your hands well under running water for 5 to 10 seconds.
6)   Dry your hands well with a towel. Turn off  the taps with a paper       towel.
7)   Dispose of the cloth or paper towel.
8)   Apply hand lotion, as needed.

Note: When cleaning under fingernails, use a disposable manicure stick, not a nail brush. Washing your hands in the single most effective way of  reducing the spread of infection.

Cleaning & Sanitizing

Mixing a daily solution of 1/4 cup bleach per gallon of water or 1 tsp. per quart (great for squirt bottles), and using the solution to clean and sanitize toys, furniture and eating utensils on a daily basis will significantly reduce the amount of germs in any child care setting.

Diapering areas should be sprayed or wiped with bleach solution after each use to reduce the risk or diarrhea.

Other areas to wipe clean include counter tops, door handles, highchairs trays, telephones, garbage cans and diaper pails. "Mix a fresh solution daily so that the bleach evaporation does not make the solution too weak." Says McCracken.

Other Germ Eliminating Ideas

As the list that follows indicates, there are a number of other things a provider can do to eliminate or stop the spread of germs.  She can:

    * Teach the children how to cough or sneeze with their hand properly over their mouth and nose and to toss out the tissues as soon as they are through with them
    * Keep cots and cribs far enough apart so that the children are not breathing, coughing, or sneezing on each other and make sure the same child uses the same cot/ crib every day
    * Open windows daily to air out the facility.
    * Give each child a separate place to keep their belongings
    * Teach the children NOT to share toothbrushes, cups, hairbrushes or food
    * Have an area where a sick child can comfortably be separated from the other children until their parents arrive
    * Have a policy in places that excludes a child with a contagious disease and let parents know
      about this policy
    * Inform parents of any contagious disease affecting any of the other children at the facility, and
    * Make certain each child's immunizations are up - to - date.

Things Parents Can Do

It is important for parents to take an active role in the fight against germs and the first thing they can do is to help make sure that their child has received all the recommend immunizations.

And as we so often mention in PARENT CARE, they should talk to their provider daily about how their is feeling. Says the Canadian Pediatric Society in their book WELL BEINGS,
"if you report that your child is feeling a bit under the weather, the caregiver will watch for signs of illness. If during the day the caregiver observes signs of infection, she or he will notify you. Prompt action when an infection is first suspected can often prevent its spread through the center."

As well, parents should notify the center or dayhome right away if they have to keep their child home because of an infection, this allows the provider to keep an eye on the other children in her care and treat them properly if they become ill.

Finally, parents should monitor the daycare and provider to ensure proper hand washing and sanitizing techniques are being used. Don't be afraid to ask the provider how and how often
she cleans toys, furniture, toilets, counters, and diaper changing areas, or to check the washrooms for clean towels and an ample supply of soap.  It's your child's health. More important, it's your responsibility.