Communicable diseases are illnesses spread from one person to another. They can be caused by tiny insects or germs that can get into or onto the body. Examples of these are colds, flus, chicken pox, lice, and hepatitis A. Most childhood illnesses are caused by communicable diseases. Preschool age children have some symptoms of illness 1/3 to 1/2 of the year. This is because their immune systems are not built up as much as when they are older. The mild illnesses actually help to build their immune systems as they grow. That is not to say that we should not clean and manage our homes and childcare centers. We have a responsibility to help prevent highly contagious illnesses for all of our community. Kids usually bounce back easier than older folks, so we must take steps to ensure everyone is doing their part in order to keep everyone as healthy as possible.
The best defense that we have against contagious disease is our own body. Healthy skin and tissues are an excellent barrier to germs. A strong internal immune system effectively fights off most of the germs that enter the body. When we take care of ourselves with proper exercise, nutrition, and rest, the body takes care of itself. Add to those measures, mental and emotional wellness, healthy relationships, and a sense of connection, and we have even more immune building resources.
There are some universal precautions we can take in childcare centers, since kids get sick more often during the year. They are: proper handwashing, use of gloves, disinfecting surfaces, etc. We need to do these things consistently, whether the kids appear to be sick or not. We cannot tell by looking at someone whether they are carrying an infectious disease or not.
Handwashing is the single most important infection control measure. Staff, children, and guardians need to wash hands properly. Wash hands when preparing or serving food, when clearing food, when giving medication, when cleaning up human or animal waste, or after art and outdoor play. Scrubbing hands, lower arms, and under fingernails with soap and warm water for 20 seconds is important. I taught my kids to sing the ABC song twice while washing their hands.
We can make cleaning our hands and cleaning our areas of work and play fun by adding songs about cleaning and staying healthy. Let the kids add their own words of input for the songs, like an improv session!
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Whatever gets us eating healthier will help us in all facets of our lives because what we eat becomes us.