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Education Risk Insights: Preventing and Controlling Infections in Nurseries

Children in nurseries can be germ factories—they share toys, touch everything within reach and often shove things into their mouths without a second thought. In this environment, germs have free rein, spreading with little resistance. Compounding the problem is the fact that children are more susceptible to infections since their immunity is still developing.

It requires ceaseless supervision in the nursery to ensure children stay healthy, clean and infection-free. As the owner or manager of a nursery, ensuring this supervision is your legal responsibility. Not only that, but parents will quickly stop sending their children to a nursery with rampant, constant infections floating around. To ensure that your nursery workers and the children in their care stay healthy and that your nursery stays economically viable, heed the following guidance to prevent and control infections in nurseries.

How Infections Spread

Infections are caused by germs. In nurseries, the main sources of germs are people, animals, food and water. To curb infections, you must curb the spread of germs. People share germs and acquire infections in several different ways, including the following:

  • Direct contact – Germs can spread through close, direct contact with an infected person or animal or by contact with their bodily fluids.
  • Vertical transmission – Certain germs can transmit from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding.
  • Self-infection – Germs can even spread from one part of the body to another, causing new infections.
  • Inhalation – Many common germs, such as the chickenpox and flu viruses, travel through the air and infect people upon inhalation.
  • Consumption – Consuming contaminated food or water can cause gastrointestinal infections.
  • Indirect contact – Touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, mouth, nose or a wound is one of the easiest ways to transmit infections.
  • Vehicles and other vectors – Some animals can serve as vehicles of infection (eg flies depositing germs in our food) while others act as vectors (eg mosquitoes spreading infections by biting us).

How to Stop the Spread of Infections

There are many ways to thwart the spread of infections, and most of them adhere to one of these four principles for controlling and preventing infections:

  1. Reducing or eliminating the sources of infection—for example, by cooking food properly
  2. Preventing the sources of infection from transferring contaminants—for example, by using suitable hygiene procedures when cooking with raw meat
  3. Training all nursery staff to always use appropriate hygiene procedures
  4. Educating parents and children about good hygiene procedures

Use these principles as guidance for establishing good, uniform hygiene practices in your facility. For example, you could adopt some of the following strategies for stopping the spread of infections:

  • Recommend children and staff receive their routine immunisations.
  • Implement effective, facility-wide hygiene procedures.
  • Exclude infectious children and adults from the nursery.
  • Ensure prompt and appropriate treatment of illness to halt its spread.

Common Infections

Certain infections are very common in children and spread rapidly in nurseries. Keep on the lookout for symptoms associated with the following symptoms—just one infected child can quickly turn into a serious outbreak:

  • Chickenpox is usually seen in children less than 10 years old. It is highly contagious and spreads through direct contact with contaminated surfaces. Infected children develop cold-like symptoms and itchy spots. Despite its contagiousness, it is a mild illness from which most children recover without any complications.
  • Colds and flu are common respiratory tract infections, occurring any time of the year, but they are most prevalent during the winter. They spread via respiratory droplets from a contaminated person. The average cold and flu symptoms are generally more serious for children.
  • Conjunctivitis is a common infection of the conjunctiva, the transparent membrane that covers the white of the eye. It is highly contagious and more common in children and the elderly. Symptoms include itching, a ‘gritty’ feeling of the eye and a yellow discharge. It spreads from contact with the eye discharge, often via unwashed hands.
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting can be attributed to many different causes, but in children, sudden gastrointestinal distress is usually caused by an infection. Most gastrointestinal infections are mild, but have the potential to cause severe or even fatal dehydration in small children. Afflicted children should be drinking plenty of fluids.
  • E. coli is bacteria that can cause a serious infection characterised by mild diarrhoea, severe abdominal pain and a fever. It spreads via contact with animals or their faeces, eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated liquid such as unpasteurised milk.
  • Ringworm is caused by several species of fungi and can occur on the scalp, body, groin, hand, foot or nail. It spreads by direct and indirect skin contact with an infected person. It appears as a small red dot that grows and leaves scaly patches.

Constant Supervision is Key You need constant supervision to guarantee that your nursery, your employees and the children in their care stay safe, healthy and hygienic. The insurance professionals at Business Insurance Service have the resources you need to support constant and robust health and safety efforts in your nursery. The threat of germs and infections never stops, so your health and safety efforts should not either.

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