Is It Possible to Keep My Kids From Picking Up Germs at Day Care?

Regular hand washing is one effective strategy for reducing the amount of germs your child comes in contact with at daycare. g215/Shutterstock

Q: My twin 1-year-old boys have been home with me the past couple months. It’s been so fun, but I am actually more than ready to go back to work. I’m a little nervous about sending the boys back to day care, dubbed by all my mom friends as a “germ farm.” Got any tips on how to prevent my kids from getting sick once they go back?

A: Ha! That’s funny. You want to send your kids to day care and keep them from getting sick? That’s like Brad leaving Angelina for Kate Gosselin. It ain’t gonna happen, sister. Kids getting sick in day care is a given these days, especially as flu season draws near, and there’s not much you can do about it short of getting a private at-home baby sitter. That’s not an option for many working parents though, as day care is by far the more affordable option. On the plus side, day care babies often adjust better to new situations and are far less likely to throw a tantrum when you leave them with the occasional sitter, so try not to feel uber-guilty as you drop them off at the “germ farm.”

Though it is close to impossible to keep your kids from getting sick in day care all year long, there are some things you can do to lessen the risk:

1. Wash, wash, wash their hands. Make sure that your day care providers wash your kids’ hands before they eat snack or lunch and wash their own hands after changing a diaper or helping a child blow his nose. And wash your kids’ hands when they get home, too. The single, most effective prevention against getting sick is keeping your hands clean, especially when it comes to your toddlers who are sticking their fingers in their mouths any chance they get.

2. If you can, make sure that your day care has a strict sick-kid policy, and that sick kids must stay home. Little Brendan can’t catch little Susie’s cold in day care if Susie isn’t there. And when your child is sick, do your part to help prevent other kids from catching the bug and don’t send her to day care (though it might seem like a nice payback to those kids who got her sick in the first place). If you can’t stay home with your child and don’t have family or friends you can leave her with, explore the options in your community for sick-child care.

3. Make sure that once your kids know what boogers are, they’re using a tissue to go digging for gold. There comes a point in every child’s life when the fascination with their nose is at its peak. It seems every time they stick their finger up there, a new surprise comes out. It’s like a free vending machine attached to their face. So teach your child early to use tissues when they feel the urge. Kleenex actually touts that every one of its tissues now has a “sneeze shield” — an extra layer of coating that prevents “stuff” from getting on your kids’ hands. Not sure if it actually works, but the concept is a great one.

4. Keep your kids’ immune systems strong. When your body is not getting the rest and the nutrition it needs, you are more prone to getting sick. This means making sure your kids are getting a balanced diet with plenty of nutrients and making sure they’re getting enough sleep.

These tips may not prevent your child from getting sick altogether, but at least you can know that you’re doing your part to keep it from happening. Good luck!