Handwashing at Daycare

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I suspect our daycare isn't practicing good handwashing

Dec 2010


My daughter loves toddler school, however since September (2 1/2 months)had a cold that lasted on an off for 6 weeks, then an ear infection, the croup, and conjunctivitis. I've read BPN posts on this subject, that getting sick can be unavoidable, etc. However I'm wondering if our daycare isn't practicing good handwashing, and if so, could that be the cause. They often have the kids wash hands in a bowl of soapy water which they pass around to the whole group. Is this an easy transfer of germs from one kid to the other? Not sure they are drying their hands on the same towel, but that could also be a cause. Thanks for your feedback, I may ask them to be stricter on their policy, or if the illnesses persist take my daughter elsewhere. Anon

If the handwashing issue is the only problem you have with your daycare, I would not change just because of it. There are two reasons why I say this. First, it is completely impossible to keep toddlers from sharing germs, unless you limit their activities in a way I wouldn't recommend. Even if hands are washed after bathroom, and before and after eating (which they should be), this will not solve the problem. Little kids still put toys in their mouths; they touch each other and then touch their faces, they share a toy and then touch their faces. Absolutely no way around it -- my 9 year old still does a fair bit of it. Second, I've read that the worst is over in about 2 years (and it was certainly true with my child -- he was sick a whole lot in daycare from ages 1 to 3, and then, at 3, this suddenly stopped. After that he was really sick only once or twice a year. Even colds are not that frequent.). Kids' immune systems are exposed to the most common infections, and it takes about 2 years to develop immunity to all of them. This can happen now, or it can happen in early elementary school - - whenever the exposure first occurs. Might as well be now. Karen

This is a violation of licensing law, I believe, they have to provide hand-washing in a non-kitchen sink. Totally gross!Print out the licensing law, easily found on line, and bring it to them, and have them line up the kids at a sink to wash hands. Yikes. Good Luck!

I'm pretty sure most would agree that good handwashing include soap and RUNNING water. The bowl technique sounds not so clean. I would ask the school to change. Carey


Cold water only at daycare - is this right?

August 2010


Our child recently started at a day care facility. I've noticed that the bathroom, which all children and childcare providers share, provides only cold water in the sink. Is this normal? I was always taught that it takes *warm* water, along with good scrubbing with soap, to remove germs. Am I over-reacting? I imagine that there is concern children would scald themselves, but couldn't the water heater be adjusted accordingly? Don't Wanna Have an (all the time) Sick Kid

I've worked in a variety of Early Childhood Ed. settings for the past 15 years, and I can tell you this is not unusual. And having had LOTS of handwashing trainings (and having a partner who is a physician), I can also tell you that it is the soap, water, and -- very significantly -- the amount of time scrubbing that's important. The water temperature isn't going to make a difference (I guess, unless it were so hot it would actually kill germs, which would also scald your child). It's unfortunate, because I hate washing my hands in cold water, but I think some places may have a hard time adjusting their water temp., so they have to keep it cold to be within licensing regulations. You might ask if the water can be any warmer, but it's not a health/safety concern. Of much more concern is that teachers and children wash hands frequently, and toys/tables/etc. are cleaned frequently. -Hope this helps

I think you may be overreacting. anon

There was a great article in the New York Times health column a while back debunking the idea that warm or even hot water is helpful for killing germs. While boiling hot water does obviously kill germs, the temperature at which the heat of the water does any good in this respect is way higher than human tolerance. When we wash hands it's mainly to wash the germs off, and the soap helps them slide off better, not so much ''killing the germs.'' So, warm water is mainly a comfort thing. So, keeping it cold-only seems a reasonable safety measure in a daycare to avoid kids getting overly hot water. Here's a link to the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/health/13real.html lukewarm handwasher here

Warm water isn't required to removed germs; it is merely for your own comfort. The only problem I see is that your kids may not wash their hands for long enough to actually get the germs off if their hands freeze first. Maybe the cold water will build some hardy souls. anon

The water temperature required to kill viruses and bacteria would be too hot for cleaning skin. Soap, lots of friction, and a long rinse are all you need. Cool is cool

I am a preschool teacher and we use cold water in the children's bathroom for hand washing so the children don't get burned. After 20 children wash their hands using the sinks with our old Berkeley plumbing, the water would be very hot! No burns please

I do think you are over reacting somewhat. It's mainly the scrubbing action that removes dirt etc, and most kids probably aren't scrubbing hard or long enough to do much.

Here's what wikipedia says about temp:

Hot water that is comfortable for washing hands is not hot enough to kill bacteria. Bacteria grows much faster at body temperature (37 C). However, warm, soapy water is more effective than cold, soapy water at removing the natural oils on your hands which hold soils and bacteria. Contrary to popular belief however, scientific studies have shown that using warm water has no effect on reducing the microbial load on hands.

Kids need to be exposed to dirt and germs to have healthy immune systems. Dirt Don't Hurt