Stopping the spread of intestinal diseases

Intestinal tract diseases don’t always make you or a child feel sick or have diarrhea, so the best method for preventing the spread of disease is to take these routine precautions:

  • Make sure you and the children frequently wash your hands.
  • Insist on general cleanliness and sanitizing.
  • Be sure that all adults and children have received the vaccines recommended for them.

Special Advice for Group Care Settings

  • If you provide care to many children at a time, separate them into three groups whenever possible: infants, older diapered children, and children who use the toilet reliably.  Try to have one adult for each group to avoid carrying germs from group to group.  If mixing child groups is necessary, minimize the number of people involved and emphasize careful handwashing when moving from group to group and within mixed groups.

Special precautions for infectious diarrhea:

  • Strictly enforce all handwashing, diapering, toileting, and cleaning procedures.
  • Exclude children with diarrhea not explained by a change of diet or use of medication AND whose stool is not contained by use of the toilet.  All children in diapers who have diarrhea that may be infectious must be excluded from other children because of the high risk of contamination involved in failing to strictly follow correct diaper changing routines.  If you allow children with diarrhea to remain in the child care setting, set up a separate room or area to provide extra attention and to ensure that caregivers involved in caring for children with diarrhea do not come in contact with children who are well.

Return guidelines: Excluded children and caregivers may come back when the diarrhea is gone, they are well, or when they have assumed a new stool pattern for a week or so that seems to be their new normal pattern.  Continue to take special precautions after diarrhea has been a problem.  Laxity of precautions can easily lead to a new outbreak.

Keep track of the number of cases of diarrhea.  If a child has diarrhea that is bloody or persistent, or if two or more people develop diarrhea at the same time, contact a local health official and ask the health official to investigate the cause and determine what steps are necessary.

About Intestinal Tract Diseases

Intestinal tract diseases are caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites that multiply in the intestines and pass out of the body in the stool. Anyone can catch these diseases, sometimes repeatedly.  Programs that care for children in diapers are especially at risk because caregivers and children frequently get feces on their hands.  When infectious stool gets on hands or objects, people who fail to wash before touching their mouths or food swallow the germs.  Swallowing as few as 10 Shigella or Giardia germs can cause intestinal tract illness; Salmonella and Campylobacter germs must be swallowed in larger quantities to cause illness.  Children or caregivers with disease-causing germs in their stool may not act or feel sick or have diarrhea. In cases of infectious diarrhea, pinworms, or Hepatitis A, notify parents, caregivers, and the program’s doctor or health consultant.

About Infectious Diarrhea

People have diarrhea when they have more frequent stools than normal for them and their stools are loose, watery, and unformed. (Babies who are fed only human milk or formula may have unformed and frequent stools.  This may continue  until they eat solids.  A baby who is behaving normally and has unformed stools that have some substance to them as a usual pattern for that child does not have diarrhea.)

Infectious diarrhea is caused by viruses, parasites, or bacteria and can spread quickly from person to person.  Noninfectious diarrhea can be caused by food allergies, food intolerances (such as milk/ lactose), toxins (certain types of food poisoning), chronic diseases, or antibiotics or other medication. Noninfectious diarrhea does not spread from person to person.