Schools, playgrounds and childcare facilities are full of energy and fun—but they’re also full of kids’ germs. Any place where lots of kids come in contact with one another is likely to have a high level of illnesses. You can’t shield your child from every cold that’s going around town. But you can do your best to fight sniffles, sore throats and tummy-aches by following these seven germ prevention tips.
How to limit exposure to germs
1. Choose facilities wisely
It’s important to review the health and safety guidelines of any school or daycare before enrolling your child. Be sure kids are encouraged to wash their hands with soap and warm water throughout the day, especially before and after playing outside or eating food. Ask the staff how frequently they sanitize tables and toys. Make sure the area where sick kids rest is away from the rest of the group, and find out whether or not they tell all the other parents when a child is sent home sick.
2. Ask about vaccinations
Most states require childcare facilities to keep written records of kids’ vaccinations, so ask yours if it has these documents. Also, ask if your daycare accepts children who are on “catch-up” immunization schedules—these kids could potentially transmit illnesses to younger children who have not yet reached the vaccination age.
3. Vocalize your concerns
If anything ever seems amiss at school or daycare, address your concerns with the supervisors and explain your expectations for cleanliness. If the facility can’t change its policies, consider choosing an alternative.
4. Keep a clean home
You expect your daycare provider or school staff to keep things spic and span, right? So make sure you do the same at your own home. Regularly sanitize surfaces and frequently touched areas like doorknobs and light switches. Childproofing your home can also help avoid bumps and bruises that can become infected.
5. Keep hands clean
Washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Teach children to wash their hands with warm water and soap for at least as long as it takes to sing the ABC song.
Hand sanitizer is another good way to prevent germs, but be sure you sanitize safely! Only place a small amount of sanitizer in your child’s hands and have them rub until dry. Take the following precautions to avoid alcohol poisoning when using hand sanitizer:
- Tell children not to put their hands in their mouth after using sanitizer
- Don’t use hand sanitizer before eating
- Keep sanitizer away from children so that it isn’t used without adult supervision
- Buy plain sanitizer that isn’t fruity or tempting to taste
- Consider sanitizers that are not alcohol-based.
Also show children how to cover coughs and sneeze into the crook of their elbows. While you’re at it, remind them not to use their sleeve to wipe anything, since it could spread those freshly-sneezed germs.
6. Call in sick
According to the CDC, kids shouldn’t go to school or daycare with any of these symptoms: vomiting, fever above 100°F, sore throat, white spots in the back of the throat, signs of pink eye or severe phlegm-producing cough. The same goes for grown-ups, too. Set a good example and stay home when you’re sick.
7. Don’t over-stress
Remember that you can’t protect your kid from everything. And in fact, a little bacteria may actually be good for kids; the National Institutes of Health suggests that exposure to germs may ultimately help children build stronger immune systems.
How to prevent the spread of germs when kids are sick
If your child is already sick, you’ll want to step up your germ-fighting efforts to prevent you or a sibling from becoming sick. Here are some additional things you can do:
- Avoid sharing meals with any children that are sick.
- Up your disinfecting efforts, focusing on any surfaces that the sick child often uses.
- Do laundry more frequently, especially bedding and towels.
- If a sick child has siblings, do your best to reduce the amount of contact they have. This includes the sharing of items, such as to or books.
There’s no fool-proof way to prevent germs, but following the above tips can go a long way in helping your kids stay happy and healthy.