Should I Be Concerned About My Baby’s Daycare Germs?

For many families, daycare plays an essential role in their routine, allowing both parents to continue working outside home. What most parents notice is that while the social stimulation at daycare may be psychologically healthy, physically, their baby seems to have a lot of runny noses and colds.

Are daycare germs inescapable? How dangerous are they, really? Read on for ideas to keep your kids healthy.

Sharing Toys and Germs

You don’t need a medical degree to see how kids swap sicknesses in daycare. One child sneezes on a plastic stacking ring, your child puts it in her mouth, and before you know it, you’re telling your boss you need to leave early for a pediatrician appointment–again.

If your baby is still very young (under about 6 months), you may be especially concerned about illness. Infants are still working on regulating their body temperature and building their immune system. A fever or some viruses can be much more serious for a new baby than a 1-year-old or toddler.

Even for older kids, it’s not like being sick is fun (or convenient for working parents, who must skip work and can catch more colds themselves). But if daycare is non-negotiable, and your kid is exposed to other children, is there any way to avoid germs?

Health Questions for Daycare Providers

Let’s be realistic: Your child will almost certainly get sick more often in daycare than he or she would at home. You can’t expect to control germ exposure the same way. Some sources say the benefit is fewer infections later on, thanks to a well-tested immune system, but that doesn’t do much for you now.

What does: Finding a daycare provider who takes proactive measures to minimize spreading “sick” germs. Ask these questions when you’re researching options:

  • How often do caregivers wash hands? Ideally, after contact with each kid, like your pediatrician does. Realistically, look for prominent, frequently used hand sanitizer jars and a sink in the room so providers don’t have to leave kids to wash up.
  • How often are toys cleaned? Again, ideally, the center sprays toys clean anytime they go in a mouth. They should definitely be washing toys, beds, and changing surfaces at least once a day, and likely more often than that.
  • What’s your policy on sick kids? Fevers, eye infections, and vomiting/diarrhea should be the bare bones of a stay-home list. Get a sense for how strict they are. When do they require doctors’ notes? Do caregivers mention lots of fevers cropping up after lunch or naptime (when a fever-lowering medication would have worn off)? A strict center won’t go easy on you, either, but being tough on rules is one of the best ways to limit germs.

Protecting Your Baby From Home

You’re not there to yank a pre-chewed toy from your baby’s mouth, but you can still bolster her immune system from home. Try these measures for the best chance at resisting infection:

  • Wash hands a lot at home. You and your baby can both change clothes and wash hands and face as soon as you’re in the door to get rid of some of the day’s germs.
  • Nurse your baby. Breastfeeding passes antibodies in your milk. Your body will notice infection before symptoms appear and start helping your baby fight the invaders.
  • Get plenty of vitamins. Your well-balanced diet comes through in your milk, too. Use vitamin D drops on your nipple to make sure your baby gets his RDA.
  • Vaccinate on schedule. There are pregnancy and baby-safe flu vaccines, and your pediatrician will recommend a course of standard vaccines that offers your baby the best protection. You wouldn’t drive your kid without a car seat. Don’t skimp on vaccines, either.
  • Make a sick-day plan. Who can you call if your child is sick? What telecommuting or flexible working options can you figure out with your boss? Keep other kids healthy so they won’t catch another bug and reinfect your child, either.

While you can’t always protect your baby from exposure to any germs, health-friendly practices can minimize sick days, making the daycare experience better for everyone.

Jessica Sillers
Jessica Sillers is a parenting and finance writer whose work has been featured in Pregnancy & Newborn, Headspace, and more. As a new mom herself, she’s passionate about helping other parents find the community and support they need. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, reading, and hiking.

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