Disease-Free Daycares

Keeping daycare disease-free. Getty Images Credit: Cultura RM Exclusive/Matelly

Is it possible to have a germ and disease-free daycare center or preschool? Not likely. However, there are precautions that you, your daycare center or preschool, and even your child can take to limit the spread of nasty germs. From proper hand hygiene to keeping sick kids home, here's what parents need to know.

Why Do Infections Spread Easily at Daycares?

Did you know that both the child and the caregiver may be partially at fault for the spread of infection in daycares?

Kids have inborn behavioral habits such as a need for close interpersonal contact, lack of good personal hygiene, as well as immature physical development, that all contribute to the spread of infectious diseases.

On the other hand, the caregivers at these centers aren't always provided with appropriate hygiene training for avoiding the spread of infections. Daycares can have extremely high turnover rates of employees, which means they're unable to provide continuous training of these simple practices.

Studies have shown that implementation of simple hygienic practices, such as hand-washing, can significantly reduce the rates of illnesses in childcare settings.

How to Limit the Spread of Infection

Here are a few simple measures that your childcare center can implement to keep your kids infection-free.

  1. Frequent hand washing. Hand washing is not only important for the kids, but for the caregivers as well. Studies have shown that proper hand washing is probably the best way to limit the spread of infection in daycare centers. However, keep in mind that doing it the right way is more important than doing it at all. One study showed that faucet handles are one of the most contaminated areas in a daycare! One option is the use of automatic faucets, whose high costs may outweigh the benefits, but they can assist in limiting the spread of disease.
  2. Clean diapering stations and potties. Foot-activated roll-out trash cans for diapers are great for reducing the transfer of infectious microbes on hands. Use of disposable latex gloves and good sanitation of diapering areas are also important ways to prevent infections that can cause stomach and intestinal diseases, including diarrhea. Diaper areas should be cleaned with a diluted bleach solution (1:64).
  3. Proper food storage. Make sure food storage areas are clean, and breast milk and foods that can spoil at room temperature are refrigerated.
  4. Proper food preparation. Porous, cracked, or damaged surfaces can provide microbes safe havens to hide out. Make sure that counters or tables for food preparation are nonporous and in good condition. Keep counters clean. Don’t let kids share foods, drinks, or utensils. Food preparation should not be done near diaper changing areas.
  5. Caregiver training. Make sure caregivers have been properly trained on hygiene practices for limiting the spread of infectious microbes. Simply understanding how diseases are spread and which ones to look out for can be a huge asset in infection prevention.

What Parents Can Do

If a seasonal cold makes its way through your home, you might feel powerless to stop it. While it's true that parents can't control every aspect of their family's health, there are plenty of steps you can take to help reduce the risk of illness, as well as help everyone heal quickly if they do get sick.

  • Find daycare groups that are small to limit the number of kids who can spread infections.
  • Make sure your daycare center incorporates proper hygienic practices, especially frequent hand washing, clean diapering areas, and proper food practices.
  • Follow your daycare center’s guidelines for sick kids. Keep your child at home when he or she has a fever, is vomiting, has diarrhea, or has eye discharge (pink eye).
  • Look for a daycare with an open door policy, so you can monitor daily hygienic practices, admission of sick kids, and proper facilities.
  • Talk to your pediatrician. As a caregiver for many children in your area, he or she will have good insight on which daycares or preschools are prone to having the largest number of sick kids.
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Article Sources
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  1. Zomer TP, Erasmus V, Looman CW, et al. Improving hand hygiene compliance in child daycare centres: a randomized controlled trial. Epidemiol Infect. 2016;144(12):2552-2560. doi:10.1017/S0950268816000911

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza (Flu): Information for Schools & Childcare Providers. Updated November 7, 2019.