Preventing Infection & Illness
Handling food safely, practicing basic hygiene to prevent communicable diseases, and getting regular physical exams and immunizations are all healthy habits that help protect your child against illness and infection.
Safe food preparation and precautions
Thorough cleaning and food preparation helps keep you and your child from getting food-borne illnesses. Do your best to also choose restaurants that handle food safely.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following steps to prevent food poisoning:
- Prepare foods safely. Because germs spread easily on surfaces that many people use or touch, it is important to wash your hands often and keep surfaces clean.
- Shop safely. Raw meats, seafood, and eggs can contaminate other foods they touch. Keep these items wrapped in plastic and away from fresh foods in your shopping cart.
- Cook foods safely. Meats and foods that have been in contact with raw meat need to be cooked thoroughly to prevent the growth of bacteria. The specific temperature varies by type of food.
- Store foods safely. Keep food temperatures at safe levels to prevent bacterial growth that can cause illness. For example, perishable foods should be refrigerated promptly, not left out on the counter.
- Follow labels on food packaging. Look for expiration dates on perishable foods before you buy or eat them. Also, follow cooking guidelines that are provided, such as temperature and cooking time.
- Serve foods safely. Keep hot foods hot—140°F (60°C) or above—and cold foods cold—40°F (4.4°C) or below. If you are not sure if a food is safe to eat, throw it out.
Protect against the spread of illness
Although colds and flu are more common in the colder months, they can occur any time of year. Take extra precautions to help protect your child against these and other viral and bacterial infections.
- Be aware of higher risk of germs in public areas. Avoid exposing your child to a large crowd if he or she has been ill recently or has an otherwise weakened immune system, especially when a contagious illness is going around. Also, it may be helpful to have a hand sanitizer and disposable wipes on hand to clean hands and to wipe off shopping carts or other shared items in public places.
- Avoid close contact with others who are sick. Keep your child away from others who are obviously ill. Also, if your child is ill, avoid contact with other children until the contagious period is over. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure about how long your child is likely to be contagious.
- Wash your hands often. Keeping your hands clean is an obvious but often overlooked means of preventing the spread of germs.
- Wash and disinfect surfaces and toys. Areas where germs collect, such as the kitchen and bathroom, should be kept clean and frequently disinfected.
- Teach children to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, preferably using a tissue so that germs do not get on their hands. Also show them how to use tissues to wipe their noses.
- Have your child immunized. Immunizations provide important protection for your child against harmful disease.
Visit the doctor regularly
Schedule regular well-child appointments. During these visits, the doctor:
- Gives your child a general physical exam.
- Gives or schedules immunizations.
- Asks you questions about your child’s health and development and whether you have any concerns.