Protecting Your Child From Infections
Immunizations save lives. They are the best way to help protect you or your child from getting certain diseases that can be spread to other people (infectious diseases). And there are often no medical treatments for these diseases.
They also help reduce the spread of disease to others to prevent sudden outbreaks of the disease, called epidemics. Preventing the spread of disease is very important for people with weak immune systems. These people may not be able to get vaccines, or vaccines don't work well for them. Their only protection is for others to get vaccinated so illnesses are less common.
Other reasons why vaccines are important:
- They cost less than getting treated for the disease.
- The risk of getting a disease is much greater than the risk of having a serious reaction to the vaccine.
- They are often needed for entrance into school or day care. And you may need them for your job or to travel to another country.
Keeping your child healthy at home, day care, or school
It's impossible to protect your child from all contagious illnesses. But you can teach healthy habits to help reduce your child's risk of infections. Teach your child:
- That germs spread when people touch their eyes, nose, and mouth before washing their hands. Teach your child to cough or sneeze into their arm, so that the mouth stays covered. Children should wash their hands each time they use the toilet and after they blow their nose, especially if drainage gets on their hands. Teach your child to dry their hands thoroughly after washing them. Using hand sanitizers also kills germs that can cause illness.
- Not to share hats, combs, toothbrushes, eating utensils, or other personal items with other children. Teach your child not to share food, drinks, or silverware with others.
- To use tissues and to cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing. Show your child how to hold the tissues so that drainage doesn't get on your child's hands. Tell your child to always throw away tissues in a trash can.
- To use only clean, dry paper towels and tissues. Teach your child not to handle tissues or paper towels used by other children.
- Not to touch other children's blood, urine, stool, or other drainage. Teach your child to tell an adult caregiver if another child is bleeding or accidentally urinates or passes a stool.
Children younger than age 2 need a caregiver's help to prevent the spread of germs. Wash your child's hands often, and disinfect shared toys. If your child attends day care, closely review the policies about sick children and hygiene issues.
If your child becomes ill, keep your child out of day care and away from other children until the contagious period has passed. If you are unsure about how long this should be, contact your doctor.
Keep your child away from secondhand smoke. Smoke irritates the mucous membranes in your child's nose, sinuses, and lungs, making infections more likely.
Keeping your child healthy in public areas
When in a public area, such as an airport or restaurant, be aware of the risk of exposure to germs that can make you and your child ill. Use these tips to help protect your child.
- Try to limit contact with people who may be sick.
Avoid people with an obvious illness (such as a person who is coughing or sneezing). Don't be afraid to tell others, especially those you don't know, not to touch your child.
- Wash hands with soap and water.
Do not let your child eat or touch their mouth, eyes, or nose until your child's hands are thoroughly washed with soap and water.
- Make sure the utensils, table, and general eating area are clean.
- Make sure good hygiene practices are followed if your child is in day care.
These practices include regular sanitation of facilities and toys, sanitary food preparation, proper bathroom procedures and cleaning, and procedures for when children become ill.
- Try to avoid public areas in certain situations.
For example, your doctor may recommend keeping your newborn or child with health problems away from large crowds during outbreaks of disease. If you have to be in a public place, have children over age 2 wear a mask.
Current as of: February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine