This post may be out of the ordinary for this blog, but that’s okay. It’s something that may help you stay productive as a writer, so here it is. As a parent of special-needs children, I always dreaded anyone in my family getting sick—we had enough to deal with already, and, really, who doesn’t?
Reduce chances of getting sick in flu season
For the last several years, it hasn’t been too much of a problem, because we’ve been homeschooling and we rarely ever left the house during “flu season” or winter. Since I started working at a local daycare, the way contagious illnesses usually rampage through a community has been brought to my attention again, several times. The constant sanitizing and spraying in my room has kept the transmission of germs to a minimum, however. Here’s how we do it. May it help you and your family stay well this winter.
When children arrive, the first thing they do after removing their coats is wash their hands. Any time they come in from outside, they wash their hands. The fewer pathogens they bring into the building, the better. That does nothing for the germs they are breathing out or passing along through any bodily fluids, though. For those, we have tissues, soap and water, bleach water, and disinfectant spray.
Getting kids to wash hands
We teach children to sneeze and cough into their shoulders instead of their hands, and how to use a tissue properly and then wash their hands. Every time a child touches his mouth or nose (sick or not, year-round), he is sent to wash his hands.
If a child has certain symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or fever, we send that child home as soon as possible. She cannot return until she’s been symptom-free for at least 24 hours. If a child shows signs of an illness, but doesn’t fall into the category of “send them home,” then after every time that child uses the toilet or has a diaper change, we spray the entire restroom with a disinfectant.
Sanitizing to reduce chances of getting sick
Every week, all toys, containers, and surfaces must be sanitized using a bleach-water solution (3/4 teaspoon per quart of water, per a health department nurse). We break up the room into sections and do one section a day, so that it all is done every week. This is not just through the “sick season.” It’s every week of the year.
Here’s an easy way to remember what to sanitize: If a child touches it, it needs to be bleached. If a child puts it into her mouth, it needs to be bleached right then or removed from use until it can be bleached. If it can’t get wet—or at least moistened by a sanitizing spray—it has no place around children, especially during “sick season.” Even books and cardboard puzzle pieces get sanitized at a daycare center.
It may help to think of the way the agents of the Child Detection Agency in the movie Monsters, Inc. decontaminate everything a child touches. Oh, it touched this! (you hear the “fhhhhht” sound of spraying) Stink, it touched that, too! (fhhhhht)
Every week, all sheets, blankets, and pillowcases are washed in hot water and dried on high heat. All cots are sprayed with a disinfectant (Lysol spray or some similar product) as part of Friday’s after-nap cleanup procedure. If a child has a toileting accident or vomits on a cot at naptime, we clean and disinfect it immediately.
Every day at naptime, all doorknobs are sprayed with the disinfectant. The entire bathroom—the walls, the floor, and every surface in between—is cleaned and disinfected daily.
Does it seem like overkill?
If sanitizing a bathroom daily seems like more work than necessary, just imagine a germy preschooler waddling into the bathroom, nose dripping. He wipes his nose with his hand, climbs up on the stool and turns on the light, depositing germs there. Then he goes to the toilet, lifts the seat (leaving more germs), uses the toilet and flushes it (depositing more germs), moves to the sink, smears germs on the faucet handles, and finally washes his hands and turns off the faucet with a paper towel.
Whew, at least he’s not picking up his germs from the faucet with his hands—but the next child will! That child will be washing her hands the second after she picks up his germs from the faucet, so those germs should be flowing down the drain, but she’ll still touch them when she turns on the faucet.
If I notice that a child has a runny nose, I shadow that child with a can of Lysol or spray bottle of bleach water in my hand. Taking two seconds twenty times a day to spritz the sink is worth it.
The tables and chairs are cleaned and sanitized before and after every meal/snack. Rule of thumb: If a child or parent touches it, it gets sanitized.
Antibacterial products make us sick
I have never been a fan of antibacterial soaps or hand sanitizers. Humans are made of bacteria, having many bacterial cells for every “human” cell, and using those products weakens us and will gradually kill us.
That said, I am a fan of sprays that kill viruses. Yes, I know they also kill bacteria and they carry some risk for our immune systems, too, but we’re not putting them on our bodies, just on surfaces in the environment. I’ll take that trade, because it means that far fewer viral infections pound their way through my classroom.
Something to take to reduce chances of getting sick
I take Zinc and Vitamin C and pass them out to my family members at the first sign that I’m coming down with something. I don’t buy any brands in particular, though I do prefer zinc losenges to pills because they are absorbed sublingually (I have intestinal malabsorption, and using the sublingual form of vitamins and minerals is the best way to get them into my bloodstream where they can work).
My immune system has been weak since I was a young child and I historically caught every germ within a two-block radius, but since I discovered the Zinc-and-Vitamin-C combo, it’s been much better. I am not a doctor; I don’t even play one on TV. This is not medical advice. Talk to your medical professional for medical advice and keep things as sanitized as you can. May you and yours stay healthy this winter.