Steps to Preventing Illness

Concern about infectious disease in child care is an everyday worry for parents and caregivers of young children. When children become ill, they may pass their illnesses on to other children, to caregivers, and to caregivers’ families. There are simple steps you can take to avoid preventable illnesses and reduce the risk of transmission of infectious disease.

Be Prepared – don’t wait until an outbreak occurs!

Take these steps:

  • Require correct handwashing procedures for adults and children. (See “The Best Way to Handwash” section below.)
  • Air out all the rooms where children spend their days and take the children outside often.
  • Allow lots of space for children to play both indoors and outdoors.
  • Clean and sanitize areas for diapering, toileting, and eating as well as toys and furniture.
  • Reduce germs by cleaning the environment with detergent and water and then sanitizing with a bleach solution.
  • Teach children and staff to sneeze and cough away from other people and toward the floor, into their elbows, or against their shoulders. Covering sneezes and coughs with a hand promotes the spread of germs from the hand to every subsequent surface touched, until the hands are washed.
  • Use running water, liquid soap, and individual paper towels for handwashing.
  • Do not allow sharing of personal items.
  • Review child care policies that prevent and manage infectious illness.
  • Require recommended immunizations and other well-child check-up services such as screening for growth, development, vision, hearing, anemia, lead, tuberculosis (where appropriate), etc.
  • Carefully clean up all blood and bodily fluid spills, even when the process requires a lot of work.
  • To be safe, always treat body fluids from children, adults, and animals and surfaces that may have been in contact with body fluids as possibly infectious.
  • Take active steps to educate staff, families, and children about infectious illnesses, techniques to prevent their spread, and proper care of ill children.

Diseases That Cause Illness

Infectious diseases are illnesses caused by infection with viruses or bacteria or by fungi or parasites. Contagious or communicable diseases are infectious diseases that can spread from one person to another. The germs that cause infections and contagious diseases are spread through:

  • the respiratory tract (via fluids from the eyes, nose, mouth, and lungs)
  • the intestinal tract (via the stool)
  • direct contact or touching
  • blood contact