Disease-Free Daycares

Oxymoron or Feasible Option?

Is it possible to have a germ- and disease-free daycare center or preschool? Not likely. However, there are several precautions that you and your daycare center or preschool can take to limit the spread of those nasty germs. Studies have shown that implementation of simple hygienic practices, such as hand-washing, can significantly reduce the rates of illnesses in childcare settings.

Why do infections spread so 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. Read more about the underlying causes of infections in daycares.

On the other hand, caregivers at these centers are often not provided with appropriate hygiene training for avoiding the spread of infections. Many daycares have extremely high turnover rates of employees and are unable to provide continuous training of these simple practices.

What can my child’s daycare center do to limit 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 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 spread of disease.
  1. 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).
  1. Proper food storage. Make sure food storage areas are clean, and breast milk and foods that can spoil at room temperature are refrigerated.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 can I do to ensure that my child’s daycare or preschool is safe and infection-free?

  • 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 (pinkeye).
  • 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.


Jonathan B. Kotch, Patricia Isbell, David J. Weber, Viet Nguyen, Eric Savage,Elizabeth Gunn, Martie Skinner, Stephen Fowlkes, Jasveer Virk and Jonnell Allen. "Hand-Washing and Diapering Equipment Reduces Disease Among Children in Out-of-Home Child Care Centers." Pediatrics 2007 120:e29-e36.

Maria M. M. Nesti,1 Moisés Goldbaum. "Infectious diseases and daycare and preschool education." J Pediatr (Rio J). 2007 83:299-312

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