What a week it has been! Almost every client we have seen has been dealing with a child home from school or daycare with colds; gastro or viruses. In nearly every case this infection manages to make its' rounds of the entire family. In fact, as one parent mentioned to me " when one of my kids comes home sick, I know that I need to block a week off work."
Those sentiments will ring true for many parents and the aim of this week's blog is to empower all parents to employ simple methods of infection control within their homes to try and ensure that whatever germs come into the house stay contained. Here is our easy to follow, practical guide which we hope will be easy to implement and help prevent sick days for the whole family!
1) Good Hand Hygiene : This is not only vital in a hospital environment but in any situation where the aim is to prevent the spread of bacteria. Anytime you touch your child who is unwell or something they have touched, you should wash your hands. It is important to also encourage your child to wash their hands as often as possible to prevent the germs making their way into their eyes, noses and mouths. In order for hands to have been washed properly, they should be rubbed together with soap and water for 20 seconds according to infection control guidelines. If you are trying to encourage your child, it is the length of time it takes to sing happy birthday twice! If soap and water are not immediately available, hand sanitizer gel can also be effective if used for 20 seconds.
2) Disinfect and Clean: Whilst there is conflicting advice out there as to which products are the most effective for this, disinfecting anything that comes into contact with the child who is unwell is vital. That includes all toys they have played with and any surfaces they have touched. If your child is at a stage where everything goes in their mouth, it is particularly helpful to keep track of exactly what they have touched or played with as these will be a higher infection risk. When it comes to things they have touched which are soft such as cuddly toys, towels or sheets, these should be washed regularly in order that your child does not become reinfected.
3) Mealtime Habits: In many houses, mealtimes can be particularly tricky to manage! However, this is one of the most crucial times to be aware of germs spreading between family members. Ideally you want to prevent any sharing of crockery, cutlery or drink bottles/ glasses. In addition, it may be helpful to introduce a rule which says that no one is allowed to "double dip" directly into sauce bottles and rather they should take what they want onto their own plates. Finally it is important to not allow any sharing of food or drink portions by taking bites out of each other's or sips from drinks. This also applies to finishing leftovers.
4) Be aware of Body Fluids: The easiest way for germs to spread is through body fluids. These fluids include - saliva; mucus from nose or mouth; water from eyes; vomit; urine and faeces.Whilst it is almost unavoidable for parents to come into contact with these when they have a sick child, there are things that can help to prevent the infection spreading. Any tissues should be placed straight into a bin which has a cover and the same is true for nappies. If you or any of your children come into contact with these, you also need to wash your hands immediately. If your child has a gastro bug, it may be worth considering letting them use a different toilet for a few days if possible as germs can linger on toilet seats. Be aware if you are changing nappies for more than one child (particularly if one is sick and one is not); the change mat can be an excellent breeding ground for these germs. You may want to think about using a different mat or placing a towel on top of the mat to prevent the spread.
5) Quarantine: Whilst this word will strike fear into the hearts of many parents, the idea can be simpler to implement than you may first think. The principle behind it is to limit exposure of the infection / germ to people and things. Ideas can include being isolated to certain rooms; having a toy box of set things to play with which is changed regularly and knowing which cups/ cutlery and place mats they have used. This way you are aware of what needs to be disinfected and where the risk for spreading the infection lies.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!