Maintaining good hygiene in child care centres is essential. With so many young children in proximity, it’s important to stop the risk of cross infection between children, and adults. Time spent at child care is also the perfect time to educate children about sound hygiene habits that should continue on for a lifetime.
All childcare centres should be able to demonstrate good hygiene standards to minimise the spread of infection, which is an essential factor for families choosing care facilities for their child. Likewise, the families of children in care can contribute to good practices by teaching their children simple hygiene rules at home and supporting their children to continue these practices while in care.
Why is hygiene so important in child care?
When you consider all the activities in a child care centre – little people running around with their tiny hands touching everything, sharing toys, crayons, playing in sand, touching furniture, books, food and eating utensils, it’s no wonder that germs can spread so easily. This high degree of physical contact is arguably the perfect environment to be spreading infectious diseases. Therefore, it’s essential that everyone works towards keeping the environment as hygienic possible.
How do infections spread?
Infection can spread in several ways. Some germs are airborne, coming from coughs and sneezes while others are spread through direct contact with objects and surfaces.
Handwashing – the unsung hero
The single most effective method of reducing the spread of infection is by washing hands with soap and water. If children can be taught this habit early in life, you will be doing them, and those around them, a great favour.
The National Health and Medical Research Council suggests the following hand washing procedure:
- wet your hands with running water
- cover your hands with liquid soap and rub your hands vigorously
- wash your hands all over, being sure to clean in between fingers, under fingernails, around wrists and both the palms and backs of hands
- rinse your hands thoroughly to remove all soap and germs and to help prevent dermatitis.
- use a paper towel to turn off the tap
- pat dry hands with a paper towel
Although it is an extra step, encouraging children not to touch the tap after they have washed and dried their hands – especially in public bathrooms or in child care – is a great idea. Taps in public places are very likely to have germs on them from previous users.
Encouraging hygiene in child care services
There are several hygiene methods that can be put in place in child care facilities to minimise the risk of infection. Some of these procedures are for children while others are for adults or parents. Some of these strategies include:
- encouraging children to follow basic rules of hygiene such as hand washing, covering mouths when coughing, not sharing food or drinks, using a tissue when they have a cold etc.
- encouraging adults to thoroughly wash their hands or use hand sterilizer regularly and after the toilet, changing nappies, handling children and equipment
- regularly cleaning and disinfecting toys and equipment
- maintaining strict hygiene practices in areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, sleep/rest areas and play areas.
- adhering to hygienic practices for nappy changing, toileting and wiping children’s noses
Encouraging families to support good hygiene practices
When a family practices good hygiene, it greatly assists the child care centre as it will minimise the chance of carrying and transferring infectious diseases. Once again, one of the best ways for families to support the good hygiene practices of a child care centre is by washing and drying hands regularly. More so, if families get in the habit of washing their hands upon arrival and departure of the clinic, they will greatly help to minimise the transferal of infections.
More helpful hygiene reminders for family members
Encouraging family members to reinforce hygiene habits is extremely helpful for all concerned. Some suggestions include:
- Regularly reminding children when to wash their hands, e.g. after the toilet, before and after meals, after playing with family pets or playing outside
- Provide the child with a change of clothes or underwear in case of accidents in child care
- Most importantly – keeping a child home if they are ill and only allowing the child to return once they are no longer contagious.
Sage Institute of Child Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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