Children get infections whether or not they attend child care centres because whenever children are together, there is a chance of spreading infections. However, children in child care centres tend to get more infections, and young children are the most likely to catch infections because their bodies are still building immunity to infections.
There are several reasons why children in child care centres get more infections, especially colds and diarrhoea, than children cared for in their homes. One major reason is that children in group settings come in contact with many children, so they have a much greater chance of getting an infection from another child. This is especially true among infants and toddlers who are likely to use their hands to wipe their noses or rub their eyes and then handle toys or touch other children. These children then touch their noses and rub their eyes so the virus goes from the nose or eyes of one child by way of hands or toys to the next child who then rubs his own eyes or nose, an endless cycle.
It is difficult to prevent colds from spreading among children in day care centres, especially since cold germs spread as follows:
- Through the air (whenever children with colds cough or sneeze);
- Through direct contact (whenever children with colds touch their saliva or runny noses and then touch other children); and
- Through indirect contact (when children with colds touch their saliva or runny noses and then touch an object such as a toy or furniture; germs can live on an object for some time and can be picked up by an uninfected child who touches the object).
Diarrhoea germs also spread easily, especially among children who are still in diapers. These germs are found in bowel movements and spread:
- When caregivers or children get the germs on their hands and then touch other children; and
- When caregivers or children eat food that has been prepared by someone whose hands had diarrhoea germs on them.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
As a parent, what measures can you take to safeguard your child from contacting day care infection? The following can suffice:
- Simple cleaning tips- washing your hands before and after changing their diapers, washing your hands before and after feeding, cleaning and sterilizing their toys at home, mopping their play area, etc.
- Ensure that your child has received all of his recommended immunizations
- Ensure your child stays at home when he/she has a flu. This is to enable you take proper care of her at home, and to also prevent the spread of the flu to other children at the crèche.
- Make sure your own child understands good hygiene and the importance of hand washing after using the toilet, and before and after eating.
WHAT CAN THE CRECHE DO?
To reduce the risk of disease in child care settings as well as schools, the crèche should meet certain criteria that promote good hygiene. For example:
- There should be separate sinks for preparing food and washing hands. Food should be handled in areas separate from the toilets and diaper-changing tables.
- The toilets and sinks should be clean and readily available for the children and staff. Each child should have his own towels and not share with others.
- Toys that infants and toddlers put in their mouths should be sanitized before others can play with them.
- All doors and cabinet handles, drinking fountains, all surfaces in the toileting and diapering areas should be cleaned and disinfected at the end of every day.
- All changing tables and any potty chairs should be cleaned and disinfected after each use.
- Members of staff and other children should be fully immunized, especially against the flu.
- Breast milk should be labelled and stored correctly.
- All children and their caregivers or teachers should be instructed to wash their hands throughout the day, including:
- When they arrive at the crèche
- Before and after handling food, feeding a child, or eating
- After using the toilet, changing a diaper, or helping a child use the bathroom (Following a diaper change, the caregiver’s and child’s hands should be washed and the diaper-changing surfaces should be disinfected.)
- After helping a child wipe his nose or mouth or tending to a cut or sore.
- Before and after staff members give medicineto a child.
- After handling wastebaskets or garbage.
Even with all these preventive measures, it is likely that some infections will still spread in the child care center, however it is believed that these measures will reduce those chances.