Preventing Illness in Your Home Childcare

Illness occurs when your body is unhealthy for a period of time, preventing you from working normally. Whether a parent or child is sick, illness is very likely to spread and hard to control at times, especially with children. Oftentimes, children are unaware that they are spreading germs and can get other children sick, very quickly and uncontrollably. However, there are tips and tricks that you can put into practice to help eliminate the spread of illness in your home childcare.

Why Do Illness Spread So Fast at a Childcare Centre?

There are several reasons as to why illness spreads incredibly quickly in a childcare setting. Children are at a higher risk of being infected because their immune systems are not fully developed. They frequently place toys and items into their mouths which increases the opportunity for germs and illness to spread from one child to another. Children have also not developed strong hygienic practices, they are unaware to cover their noses and mouths when sneezing or how to properly wash their hands. Implementing proper infection prevention and control measures in your childcare setting is the simplest and most effective way to prevent infections from occurring.

Basic Precautions for Preventing Illness in Your Home Childcare

While some practices for preventing illness require more attention, there are some easy, everyday precautions you can put into place to limit the spread of germs. Firstly, it is important to regularly disinfectant surfaces and wipe down frequently used areas, such as the kitchen table, kids table, bathroom, etc. Another surface that is important to clean after each use is diaper areas, especially between changes with different children. It is also crucial that you ensure tables are being sanitized before and after eating. Secondly, you can teach children to cough and sneeze into their arms or tissues, not their hands. Children learn by imitating adults and will copy everything that they see an adult demonstrate to them. It is important to make sure, as an Educator, you are practicing the same precautions. Thirdly, it is crucial to introduce the proper way to wash your hands:

  • Wet hands under running water.

  • Apply soap. It is recommended to have liquid soap from a dispenser.

  • Lather hands well with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds, making sure to get front, back and nooks of hands. Don't forget to clean underneath the fingernails.

  • Rinse hands under running water to throughly remove soap.

  • Dry with a single-use disposable paper towel.

  • Turn the tap off with same disposable paper towel.

Children love seeing pictures and feeling like they are grown-ups. You can utilize this opportunity to use graphics to encourage children about proper hand-washing. It would be beneficial to have infographics and diagrams in the washrooms near the sinks.

Separate Designated Sinks

It is important to have separate sinks that are designated for specific use. Have a sink for hand-washing, one for food preparation, and another for diapering/toileting. The designated sink for hand-washing should be used frequently. It is necessary to disinfect the hand-washing sink often. The purpose of having a separate sink for food preparation is to make sure that when you are preparing food and cleaning up, it is done in one area to prevent the cross-contamination of germs. Lastly, have a sink, mainly in or near the washroom and designate it to diapering and toilet use to limit the risk of any traces of bodily fluids elsewhere.


It is not necessary to wear gloves to complete every cleaning task or sanitize, but there are times when gloves are important and should be worn. Wearing gloves help lower the risks of transferring germs between children and lowers any chance of illness. Always wear gloves when you are handling body fluids, such as urine, soiled clothing, and bedding. Single-use gloves should be worn when diapering or toileting children. Disposable plastic gloves allow for a fast clean up of a bleeding nose, accidents on a carpet, and for changing a diaper. However, using gloves does not replace frequent hand washing.

Clean Toys Often and Properly

Toys are one of the most germ infested items in a household due to being frequently touched, coughed, and sneezed on. While it is hard to watch and prevent toys from getting contaminated, you can limit germs by properly and frequently disinfecting the toys. If you are working with children under 2-year-olds, the toys should be disinfected daily, and of course when needed throughout the day. If you are working with 3-5-year-olds, toys need to be disinfected at least once a week. For a quick clean up of toys, use dish soap and warm water and wipe it with a soft cloth.

Follow this four step toy disinfecting procedure:

    1. Inspect: Inspect all toys to ensure there are no loose parts or broken/jagged edges that could pose a safety hazard

    2. Clean: Wash the toys with soap and water. Rinse the toys with clean portage water. Let the toys air-dry or dry with paper towel.

    3. Disinfect: Apply a disinfectant. Fully immerse the toys in the disinfectant for the required contact time. A water-bleach disinfectant can be made using 1 tbsp bleach and a quart of warm water. For large toys that cannot be immersed, spray the disinfectant directly on the surface for the required contact time.

    4. Rinse: After the required contact time with the disinfectant has been achieved, rinse toys with clean potable water

Safely Store and Prepare Breast Milk and Formula

It is important to ensure you wash your hands before and after preparing formula milk bottles. Make sure the bottles are washed and sterilized before and after each use. Make sure to have proper labels on breastfeeding bottles, especially if more than one child in your care is bottle-fed. Label the bottle with the date, time, and child’s name. Once bottles are opened, they only last for an hour and cannot be re-refrigerated after. Being organized and having a proper system can help enforce safety.

Food Preparation

Similarly to the preparation and storing of breast milk, food preparation is equally as important. Make sure your hands are cleaned thoroughly before you begin any type of food preparation. Ensure that any hair or facial hair is pulled back or covered up. Clean and sanitize the area you are going to use to prep food. Depending on what you are preparing, the food safety guidelines will vary but need to be enforced to eliminate the process of cross-contamination. Once you have finished the food preparation, take the same guidelines for cleaning up.

Have a Clear Sick Child Policy

No matter how much you prepare, germs do still spread and children are bound to get sick at one point or another. This is why it is important to have a policy regarding sick children. It is imperative that sick children stay home in order to limit the further spread of germs, and this policy should be enforced every time. Having a policy clearly stated, and making sure parents are aware, can help eliminate the spread of illness germs in your home. If you allow children who are sick into your home, it increases the risk of getting other children sick. If a child has any of the following symptoms present they should be sent home or stay home:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Bad pains

  • Non-stop Coughing

  • Sore Throat

Illness in your home childcare centre can be hard to control, so it is important that you get ahead and make sure that you are actively eliminating the spread of germs. We hope that the tips and tricks we provided is a foundation for your cleaning & safety procedures. The more germs you can eliminate, the less chance of illness in your home childcare centre.

Watch the World Health Organization's guide to handwashing