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Controlling Contagious Infections in Children

WebMD Feature

It's easy to say to say, "keep the children home," when illness strikes. The problem is, kids can be exposed to and spread an infection before symptoms appear.

That's why it helps to recognize and prevent common illnesses that plague children, including flu, pink eye, and gastroenteritis. These tips from healthcare experts can help.

5 Basic Prevention Strategies

To keep contagious diseases at bay, begin with basic hygiene:

  1. Always wash your hands before touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Teach your children to wash their hands before eating.
  2. Don't share items like cups, spoons, forks, straws, towels, pillows, or toiletries.
  3. Cover up with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then toss the tissue. Or cough into your arm.
  4. To keep immunity up, make sure you and your children are well-rested and eat right.
  5. Approach hand washing as a survival skill -- it is.

4 Quick Tips for Hand Washing

Washing hands often is the single most effective way to prevent spreading contagious diseases. To wash up well:

  1. Wet your hands and apply liquid or bar soap.
  2. Scrub all surfaces for 15 to 20 seconds.
  3. Rinse well and dry your hands.
  4. No soap and water? Use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers.

Children and adults should wash their hands:

  • Before and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • After using the bathroom
  • After handling animals or their waste
  • After coughing or sneezing
  • More frequently if someone at home is sick


What to Disinfect and How

To stop germs in their tracks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend virus-killing chlorine bleach. Add one-fourth cup bleach to one gallon of warm water and allow the mixture to sit on surfaces for 10 minutes before rinsing.

When disinfecting, wear rubber gloves, a mask if you're sensitive to chemicals, and ventilate the area. Then disinfect:

  • Phones
  • Stair railings
  • Countertops
  • Bathroom surfaces (toilet seats, handles, faucets)
  • Remote controls
  • Microwaves and refrigerator handles
  • Door handles
  • Light switches
  • Toys


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